April 2, 2008

Myeloma Research Foundation Awards $750,000 Grant to UAMS

LITTLE ROCK An internationally known organization dedicated to funding research of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood’s plasma, today awarded a $750,000 grant to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) for work aimed at finding why the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment sometimes changes from initial treatment to relapse.


 


The Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), the largest nonprofit foundation dedicated to accelerating a cure for multiple myeloma, announced its first awards to apply the emerging field of proteomics to translational research in multiple myeloma to researchers at UAMS, Indiana University and the University of Michigan.


 


UAMS researchers in the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy received a three-year grant to continue its analysis of proteins in myeloma cells and their changes through the course of the disease from initial diagnosis through chemotherapy, remission and relapse. Through a comparative analysis of plasma cells from healthy volunteers and patients with myeloma, scientists anticipate being able to shed light on the molecular basis of disease initiation and progression, as well as develop methods for predicting these processes in order to help physicians personalize treatments.


 


John D. Shaughnessy Jr., Ph.D., professor of medicine and Rick Edmondson, Ph.D, associate professor of medicine at the UAMS Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy are leading proteomic research at UAMS in the Nancy and Stephen Grand Laboratory for Myeloma Proteomics, which opened in 2007. It was the first lab in the country housing sophisticated mass spectrometry equipment dedicated to a thorough analysis of the proteins produced by myeloma tumor cells.


 


“One of our primary aims is to understand, at the molecular level, why chemotherapy treatment is not as effective for a relapsing patient as it was during initial treatment,” Edmondson said. “Understanding the changes in protein expression could pave the way for more effective treatments at every stage of the disease.”


 


With the mass spectrometry equipment, which allows high-resolution analysis of large volumes of samples, scientists will be better poised to accelerate discovery and development of new drugs for the treatment of myeloma.


 


The MMRF project is innovative in that it is a collaborative effort between three academic medical centers with a focus on translational research – that is the ability to transform scientific discoveries into new medical treatments. All data will be shared and the findings from this initiative will result in jointly authored publications, said the MMRF.


 


“The MMRF Proteomics Initiative will employ cutting-edge proteomic technologies to analyze myeloma patient tissue samples and identify biomarkers that are responsible for the disease’s onset and progression, as well as patients’ response to treatments,” said Louise Perkins, Ph.D., MMRF director of research. “Identification of these biomarkers is a critical first step in accelerating the discovery and development of new myeloma therapies.”


 


UAMS treats more than 2,250 patients with myeloma annually at the Myeloma Institute – more myeloma patients than are treated at any other facility in the country. Multiple myeloma is an extremely difficult cancer to cure, yet therapeutic advances, pioneered at UAMS and other centers around the globe, over the past 20 years, have seen 10-year-survival rates increase dramatically.


 


The institute is at the forefront of research. With a dedicated faculty conducting clinical as well as basic science research, Myeloma Institute patients benefit from the rapid transmission of laboratory findings to daily care in the clinical setting through translational research.


 


Multiple myeloma is the second largest of the blood cancers, affecting an estimated 750,000 people worldwide. Approximately 50,000 people in the United States are living with multiple myeloma and an estimated 20,000 new cases are diagnosed each year.


 


The MMRF was established in 1998 as a non-profit organization by twin sisters Karen Andrews and Kathy Giusti, soon after Kathy’s diagnosis with multiple myeloma. As the world’s number-one funder of multiple myeloma research, the MMRF has raised nearly $100 million since its inception to fund 70 laboratories worldwide.


 


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, six centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has 2,538 students and 733 medical residents. Its centers of excellence include the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is one of the state’s largest public employers with about 9,600 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $5 billion a year. Visit www.uams.edu.