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Three Tulane Investigators Receive Ladies Leukemia League Research Grants

LLL Grant Presentation 2022

 Representatives from the Ladies Leukemia League – (back row, from the left) Carolyn Escher, past president; Rosalie Edwards, grant administrator; and Anita Hymel, current president – recently awarded Tulane Cancer Center researchers – (front row, from the left) Hua Lu, MD, PhD; Matthew Burow, PhD; and Zhen Lin, MD, PhD – with $35,000 grants to help support their leukemia/lymphoma research projects.

Three Tulane Cancer Center researchers – Hua Lu, MD, PhD; Matthew Burow, PhD; and Zhen Lin MD, PhD – were each recently awarded $35,000 Ladies Leukemia League (LLL) grants to help support their leukemia and lymphoma research projects.

Founded in 1969, the LLL is a volunteer organization of 225 women who have dedicated themselves to raising funds for leukemia and lymphoma research in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Since their founding, they have raised over $4.1 million, which they have distributed as "pilot" or "seed" money to research scientists working in leukemia and lymphoma research, or related fields.

The LLL issues a call for grant applications each fall and then utilizes a panel of medical advisors to evaluate proposals and make recommendations for funding. They cap awards at $35,000 per investigator in order to provide support for as many worthy projects as possible.

Tulane's current grant recipients were recognized and awarded with the first half of their grants at the organization's annual grant recipient luncheon, which took place in April. The balance of their awards will be distributed at the halfway point in the grant period, during the organization's annual Fête de Noël Luncheon in December.

LLL's Fête de Noël Luncheon and Fashion Show is their major annual fundraiser and a premiere benefit of the Holiday Season in New Orleans. It is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, December 13, this year. For more information, please visit: https://ladiesleukemialeague.org/index.htm

Below is a synopsis of Tulane's currently funded projects:

M Burow

Matthew Burow, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine

Utilization of the Kinase Chemo-Genomic Set to Identify Targets of Therapeutic Opportunity in MCL

Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma with a median survival time of 3-4 years and a 10-year survival rate of 5-10%. Despite initial positive responses to existing therapeutic strategies (chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy), MCL inevitably relapses as a treatment-resistant disease. Therefore, there is a critical need to identify novel, druggable targets for MCL. Human cells contain many different kinases – enzymes that help control important functions, such as cell signaling, metabolism, division, and survival. Kinase inhibitors block the action of kinases. The Burow lab previously utilized the Kinase Chemogenomic Set (KCGS) – a collection of 187 understudied kinase inhibitors assembled by the Structural Genomics Consortium at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill -- to identify NEK5 as a novel kinase of importance in triple-negative breast cancer, a treatment-resistant and malignant disease with outcomes similar to MCL. The current project proposes to use the KCGS to screen for novel kinase targets in MCL.

 

H Lu

Hua Lu, MD, PhD
Professor & Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Developing Nano-Encapsulated INZ-C as a Potential and Novel Leukemia/Lymphoma Therapeutic Agent

Previous studies by the Lu Lab identified Inauhzin-C (INZ-C) as a non-genotoxic small molecule that suppresses cancer cell growth by promoting the functions of a well-recognized tumor suppressor protein called p53. Through projects previously funded by LLL, the Lu lab also demonstrated that INZ-C suppresses the function of an oncoprotein called c-Myc in lymphoma cells, repressing the growth of these cells. In order to improve its anti-cancer potency and bioavailability in animals, the Lu Lab has also generated nanoparticles for encapsulating INZ-C. The nanoparticles-encapsulated INZ-C – called “n-INZ-C” – is more metabolically stable and more potent in activating p53. Also, the lab demonstrated that n-INZ-C can more effectively suppress the growth of mouse xenograft tumors derived from colorectal cancer cells. This LLL-funded project will support the Lu Lab’s study of n-INZ-C and its development into a novel cancer cell-specific molecule-targeted therapy for leukemia and lymphoma.

 

Z Lin

Zhen Lin, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Pathology

Developing a Novel Targeted Oncolytic Therapy for Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)-Associated Lymphoma

Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a human oncogenic virus etiologically related to a group of hematologic cancers known as EBV-associated lymphoma (EBVaL). Patients with EBVaL usually have co-morbidities, cannot adequately tolerate conventional intensive chemotherapy, and have worse prognoses. Thus, there is an urgent need to improve the current therapeutic regimen. Given the nearly universal presence of EBV in tumor cells, targeting the viral infection cycle and avoiding toxic chemotherapeutics would likely benefit patients. In this LLL-funded project, Dr. Lin will evaluate a novel EBV-targeting strategy that simultaneously induces a latent form of the virus and then exposes it to an anti-viral drug to eliminate EBVaL in both cell and animal models. If successful, the findings will provide important preclinical insight into the implementation of this novel therapeutic strategy and its possible benefits for patients suffering from this deadly disease.


 

For more information on Tulane Cancer Center news and events, please contact:

Melanie N. Cross
Manager of Communications
Tulane Cancer Center
1430 Tulane Ave., Box 8668
New Orleans, LA 70112
504-988-6592
mcross@tulane.edu