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OHSU Knight Cancer Institute researcher wins prestigious early-career award

PORTLAND, Ore. Jeffrey Tyner, Ph.D., assistant professor of Cell, Developmental & Cancer Biology for Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and a researcher with OHSU's Knight Cancer Institute, has won a distinguished award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for the development of a research program that more rapidly identifies the mutations driving a patient's cancer and accelerates development of precision treatments. Tyner shares the AAAS Martin and Rose Wachtel Cancer Research Award, which honors early-career cancer researchers, with Li Ma, Ph.D., of MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas.

Tyner and Ma's award entry essays were published in the July 2 edition of Science Translational Medicine. Both will deliver public lectures on their research July 7.

Tyner's work is distinguished by analyzing data on genetic mutations in patients' cancer cells, derived through deep genomic sequencing, and simultaneously assessing the manner by which tumor cells with those mutations respond to a variety of gene-targeted drugs. This approach more accurately determines which aberrations are most lethal and how they can be targeted with a precision treatment. It also allows for a better understanding of the biology of each patient's disease and, in some cases, identified new subtypes of the disease.

"Full delivery of the promise of genetically driven medicine will require that we make the leap from knowledge of cancer genetic events and translate this information into new and personalized therapeutic regimens for patients," Tyner wrote in his award essay.

Tyner's peer-reviewed studies in Cancer Cell in 2012 and the New England Journal of Medicine last year demonstrate the benefits of this research approach. The latter study pinpointed a cause of two types of leukemia and demonstrated the possibility that these diseases could be treated with existing FDA-approved drugs. As a result, a clinical trial to test ruxolitinib in patients with chronic neutrophilic leukemia (CNL) that is driven by mutations in a gene called colony stimulating factor 3 receptor (CSF3R) is soon to open.

"Jeffrey Tyner's work is making a significant contribution to the advancement of personalized cancer medicine. His approach makes it possible to achieve new discoveries in months that used to take decades," said Brian Druker, M.D., director of the Knight Cancer Institute. "It is gratifying to see his contributions recognized with an AAAS Martin and Rose Wachtel Cancer Research Award."

Tyner's methodology also forms the backbone of Beat AML, a pioneering collaboration launched in 2013 between The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and the Knight Cancer Institute to vastly accelerate development of treatments for patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). AML is a particularly devastating blood cancer with less than 25 percent of newly diagnosed patients surviving beyond five years. It causes more than 10,000 deaths a year in the United States, and treatment options largely have not changed in the past 30 years.

Beat AML creates a profile of the possible genetic drivers of AML by conducting a deep genomic sequencing analysis of participating AML patients' samples. As information from the samples is analyzed by the Knight Cancer Institute's bioinformatics team to determine potentially relevant mutations, researchers simultaneously test the response of patients' leukemia cells to different drugs and combinations of drugs. This dual process on patient samples better equips scientists to confirm that they have correctly identified a genetic driver of the disease. It not only speeds progress in understanding AML, but more efficiently determines ways to stop the disease and block potential recurrence.

Tyner said his lab will likely deploy a similar model for drug development for other types of cancer in the future. "It's an honor to have this work recognized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and it is another strong incentive to perform research that will improve therapeutic options and clinical outcomes for patients."

Tyner was named an assistant professor in the OHSU School of Medicine in 2012 following a postdoctoral fellowship in Brian Druker's laboratory. A native of West Lafayette, Indiana, Tyner earned his Ph.D. from Washington University's School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, and his B.A. from Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa.


Contact: Elisa Williams
Oregon Health & Science University

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