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Millennium Pharmaceuticals Inc./Lymphoma Research Foundation funds lymphoma research

New York, NY The Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) is pleased to announce that the 2009 Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc./Lymphoma Research Foundation Clinical Investigator Career Development Award has been awarded to Kai Fu, MD, PhD, Associate Professor at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

Lymphoma, the most common type of blood cancer, is broadly categorized into Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). According to a 2008 report from the World Health Organization, there are six types of HL and over 61 types of NHL; many of which are rare diseases.

A member of LRF's Mantle Cell Lymphoma Consortium (MCLC), Dr. Fu's work will focus on mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), an aggressive malignant B-cell form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). Mantle cell lymphoma is a rare form of NHL accounting for 6 percent of all new diagnoses of NHL or approximately 3,000 new cases per year in the United States. Mantle cell usually affects men over 60 and is frequently diagnosed as a Stage IV disease, often present in lymph nodes above and below the diaphragm and in most cases involves the gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow.

MCL is characterized by over expression of the gene cyclin D1 due to a chromosomal translocation. A subset of MCL also expresses higher levels of a group of small RNA molecules, called miR-17~92. Dr. Fu and his co-workers have found that higher expression of miR-17~92 is directly correlated with poorer patient survival. These findings indicate that higher miR-17~92 expression induces abnormal activation of a pathway in tumor cells that leads to increased resistance to standard chemotherapy. Dr. Fu will conduct a pre-clinical study to determine whether suppression of miR-17~92 will improve the effect of chemotherapy. His study will thus provide a novel approach to treating MCL patients.

"Dr. Fu's elegant proposal explores a new avenue for understanding MCL and identifying potential therapeutic targets. We are delighted that Dr. Fu has chosen MCL as the focus of his Clinical Career Development Project," stated Michael Williams, MD, Director, Hematologic Malignancy Program - University of Virginia and Chair of LRF's Mantle Cell Consortium

The 3-year Clinical Investigator Career Development Award is designed to fund training of clinicians who will participate in developing new therapeutics and diagnostic tools for lymphoma.

The focus of the training is to prepare clinicians to design and administer clinical studies in lymphoma and to take on the primary responsibilities for clinical trial design, protocol writing, Institutional Review Board (IRB) submission, and publication. Dr. Fu will be pursuing a Career Development Plan with the guidance of his mentor, Dr. Wing Chan, Co-Director, Center for Lymphoma and Leukemia Research, at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE. Dr. Fu will be supported by a grant of $300K over 3 years to accomplish his research project. The LRF thanks Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc./The Takeda Oncology Company for their generous support of this grant.

"We are proud to be able to support lymphoma research through grants such as this one, and we are hopeful that the work we support may someday be a significant contribution to the discovery of new methods for treating blood cancer," said Dixie-Lee Esseltine, M.D., Vice President, Global Medical Affairs, Millennium.


Contact: Marion F. Swan
Lymphoma Research Foundation

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