NEWS RELEASE: Myeloma Institute at UAMS Wins Nearly $18 Million Grant, Marks 5,000 Stem-Cell Transplants

By todd

In addition, the institute recently marked a milestone of performing 5,000 stem-cell transplants, will be establishing an endowed chair for myeloma research named in honor of the institute’s director, Bart Barlogie, M.D., Ph.D., and will be moving into new facilities to allow the institute to expand both its clinical and research capabilities. Barlogie is a professor of medicine and pathology in the College of Medicine at UAMS.

The $17,954,098 grant will fund an ongoing comprehensive research program, entitled “Growth Control of Multiple Myeloma,” and will be distributed over a five-year period, concluding in June 2009.

“This grant is a testament to the work of Dr. Barlogie and his group in the myeloma program,” said James Y. Suen, M.D., director of the Arkansas Cancer Research Center at UAMS and professor and chair of the Department Otolaryngology in the College of Medicine. “All of us at the ACRC salute him for his fierce and relentless pursuit of a cure for multiple myeloma and his amazing accomplishments. We are proud to have the myeloma institute as part of our team.”

The funds are earmarked for four ongoing research projects as well as four supportive cores at the institute, the first facility in the world created specifically to study and treat this rare form of cancer. The average survival rate of a myeloma patient used to be two to three years upon diagnosis; thanks to research funded in part by the NCI, the institute has extended the average survival rate of its patients to seven years and beyond.

“The renewed funding of these projects ensures that the Myeloma Institute will continue to actively develop curative therapy based on sound scientific and clinical research,” said Barlogie. “I applaud my colleagues and staff for the excellence of their work and for their diligence in pursuing the breakthroughs that will one day translate into a cure for myeloma.”

Total remission rates for patients at the institute over the last 10 years have improved from less than 5 percent for those receiving standard chemotherapy to more than 50 percent for patients undergoing both chemotherapy and stem-cell transplants.

The institute reached a landmark in June with its 5,000th stem-cell transplant, performing more of the procedures for the treatment of myeloma than any other facility in the world. An autologous stem-cell transplant consists of the collection of peripheral blood stem cells from a patient before he or she undergoes high-dose chemotherapy. The stem cells then are given back to the patient to promote recovery from the chemotherapy.

“After 5,000 transplants, we know more about myeloma and how to treat it than anybody else in the world,” said Barlogie, who received the Robert A. Kyle Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Myeloma Foundation in May for his years of dedication to finding a cure for myeloma. “We’ve learned so much from our patients, about their needs and what works best for them. We could not have come so far without their cooperation.”

Financing of the Barlogie endowed chair is under way, UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson, M.D., said. The institute is housed in the ACRC, but is scheduled to move the majority of its operations into the Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute facility later this year.

The four projects to be funded by the NCI grant are:

• “Strategies for Cure in Newly Diagnosed Multiple Myeloma,” headed by Barlogie

• “Developmental Therapeutics,” project leader Guido Tricot, M.D., Ph.D., director of Clinical Research for the MIRT

• “Elucidating the Role of the Microenvironment in Multiple Myeloma through Global Gene Expression Profiling,” project leader John D. Shaughnessy Jr., Ph.D., chief of the Division of Basic Sciences and director of the Lambert Laboratory of Myeloma Genetics, both at the MIRT

• “Targeting Heparan Sulfate for Myeloma Therapy,” project leader Ralph Sanderson, Ph.D., ACRC director of research

The supportive cores, which are integral to the entire research program, include:

• “Administration, Data Management and Biostatistics,” headed by Barlogie and co-directed by John Crowley, Ph.D., president and chief executive officer of Cancer Research and Biostatistics and director of the Statistical Center of the Southwest Oncology Group at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle

• “Anatomic and Functional Imaging Core,” directed by Ronald Walker, M.D., director of PET Research and co-director of the UAMS Cyclotron Facility

• “Molecular Genetics,” directed by Shaughnessy

• “Cell Analysis and Sample Banking,” directed by Joshua Epstein, D.Sc., MIRT senior scientist

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. The school has about 2,170 students and 650 residents and is the state’s largest public employer with almost 9,000 employees. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of about $3.8 billion a year.

UAMS centers of excellence are the Arkansas Cancer Research Center, Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Center on Aging, Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute.