$8M awarded to UCSD researchers for stem cell treatment of Leukemia

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LA JOLLA, Calif. – Two teams of UC San Diego School of Medicine researchers were awarded nearly $8 million combined to continue studies into stem cell treatments for a pernicious form of leukemia, the university announced Friday.

The money was awarded Thursday by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine’s Independent Citizens Oversight Committee to further research into acute myeloid leukemia.

“This research is critically important in advancing our knowledge of stem cells and are the foundation for future therapeutic candidates and treatments,” said Dr. Maria Millan, president and CEO of CIRM. “Exploring and testing new ideas increases the chances of finding treatments for patients with unmet medical needs.”

One team received $5.15 million to advance clinical translation of natural killer cells derived from human embryonic stem cells into a standardized treatment for treating, and possibly curing, AML and other forms of leukemia.

Natural killer cells are a type of immune system cell critical to rapid response to infections and tumor formation. They get their name from the ability to attack tumor cells without requiring patient-specific triggering markers.

The other group was given $2.7 million to support testing of a therapeutic strategy called a “splicing modulator” that targets cancer stem cells in AML. These cells, which evade or become resistant to cancer treatment, are believed to be the cause of a high relapse rate in AML and other cancers.

The American Cancer Society estimated there would be more than 21,000 AML cases in the U.S. this year, and over 10,000 deaths related to the disease. AML generally strikes adults, with the average age of a patient being 67 years old.

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