Benjamin Ebert is researching what genetic mutations cause myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS), a group of disorders in which the bone marrow fails to produce sufficient blood cells, and how that information can be used to determine prognosis and therapy. MDS frequently progresses to an acute leukemia. A Career Development Program scholar funded by LLS, Ebert is an associate physician in hematology, Brigham & Women’s Hospital; associate professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School; and leader of the Leukemia Program for the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center.
In the simplest of terms, which is your project about?
Our goal is to understand what mutations occur in MDS, how these mutations predict disease outcome, how these mutations cause MDS, and how these mutations might be targeted therapeutically. By looking at large numbers of patient samples, and identifying the mutations in each sample, we are able to see what mutations predict good or bad outcomes, response to therapy, or specific aspects of disease behavior. We then want to understand in the laboratory exactly how the mutations cause MDS to understand the disease better. Finally, we attempt to use this new biological understanding of the disease to develop improved therapies.
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It’s World Cancer Day! Pass on the latest facts and help get people talking. It’s time to welcome a new era of discovery.
Research is inching us closer to cures for blood cancer every day – among them, therapies that unleash the immune system, reprogramming of T-cells to track down cancer cells, and personalized treatments based on a patient’s genetic make-up.
Survival rates for patients with many blood cancers have doubled, tripled and even quadrupled since the early 1960s. Cures for many patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and Hodgkin lymphoma have been achieved, and the five-year survival rate for children with ALL climbed from 3 percent to approximately 90 percent. The survival rate for myeloma patients more than tripled in the past decade.
Yet about one third of patients with a blood cancer still do not survive five years after their diagnosis. And unlike many other diseases, there are no means of preventing or screening for blood cancers.