Leukemia Research Foundation supports cancer research at WVU

Researchers at West Virginia University are hard at work trying to solve the vexing problem of why some people diagnosed with devastating diseases such as leukemia and bone marrow failure do not respond effectively to standard treatments.

Dr. Wei Du and a team of researchers at the West Virginia University Cancer Institute and the WVU School of Pharmacy are using an innovative drug to solve the problem.

“If this approach is successful, we may establish a new method for blood stem cell harvest and transplantation that could significantly impact on future stem cell therapies for patients with leukemia and other blood cancers," said Dr. Du, MD, PhD.

Stem cells are the parent cells of the blood forming elements present in the bone marrow. Healthy stem cells are present in the blood in low concentrations and can be collected and grown outside the body using cell culture techniques. After high doses of treatment intended to kill all the cancer cells in the healthy bone marrow stem cells are transfused to repopulate the bone marrow with normal bone marrow stem cells. Current approaches can cure some but not all patients with bone marrow cancers or bone marrow failure. Recent research at WVU has shown that a signaling molecule called Cdc42 plays a critical role in the activity of donor stem cells in the bone marrow of transplant recipients. “Our hypothesis is that if we target Cdc42, we can move leukemia stem cells out of the bone marrow and open up the environment for incoming healthy donor stem cells to repopulate and proliferate there," Dr. Du said.

The treatment has been successful in the treating mice. Novel approaches like the one that Dr. Du is working on in mouse leukemia models are intended to pave the way for clinical trials in patients with leukemia that could extend the benefits of high dose therapy to more patients with these potentially fatal diseases.

This is the latest in a growing list of advanced research initiatives from the WVU Cancer Institute and others at the University to attack one of the leading causes of death in the state and nation.

Dr. Du's team has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the Leukemia Research Foundation to investigate a method for increasing the effectiveness of stem cell transplantation.

About The Leukemia Research Foundation (LRF)
The Leukemia Research Foundation, a 4-Star Charity headquartered in Northfield, Ill., is committed to funding research and providing support to people affected by blood cancers. The Leukemia Research Foundation is dedicated to conquering all blood cancers by funding research into their causes and cures, and enriching the quality of life of those touched by these diseases. For 70 years, thousands of volunteers and 24 chapters have helped the Foundation raise more than $70 million to help fund research specifically targeting aspiring, eager, and innovative scientists and physicians around the world, provide patient financial assistance, and offer educational and emotional support for patients and their families.

Leukemia Research Foundation information is available at, or by calling 847-424-0600.