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Backing Cutting-Edge Research

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For the team of biostatisticians who call the Center of Innovative Design and Analysis home, medical research is the driving force behind the work they partner on. Based on the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, our statisticians get involved in cutting edge research and clinical trials that matter not only to them, but to our families and communities.

For the past 2 ½ years, Diana Abbott, PhD, and Andy Hammes, MS, have been collaborative biostatisticians with the Division of Hematology. A primary focus of their projects has focused on the effect of treatment on leukemic stem cells. The combination of Dr. Jordan’s lab and Dr. Dan Pollyea’s clinical work set the foundation for future research funded by the SCOR (Specialized Center of Research) grant, a $5M award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. This research—the crux of Dr. Jordan’s proposal, which was awarded in October of 2018, could change the way clinicians think about acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Dr. Abbott says,

“Our team approach not only maximizes resources, but also has the potential to uncover important answers.”

Where it All Began

Dr. Abbott has collaborated with Dr. Pollyea on multiple clinical trials over the past several years. One of those trials provided key data for AML patients treated with two drugs, venetocaxl and azacitidine (VEN+AZA). The study showed an astounding 91 percent of AML patients treated with the VEN+AZA regimen achieved complete remission using a treatment that was far less toxic than chemotherapy. In combining Dr. Jordan’s laboratory analysis with the clinical trial results, it was concluded that VEN+AZA worked well because it disrupts energy metabolism and targets leukemia stem cells in patients with AML. These early findings were the backbone of the SCOR grant. 

The Biostats Team Brings Power to Research

The team approach in research is critical to good science with each individual thoughtfully contributing through their specialized area of expertise. The biostatistics team of Abbott/Hammes also helped provide power and sample size calculations for the clinical trial presented in the grant that unified a multifaceted approach to AML treatment that is custom-designed to a patient’s unique AML stem cell population. “Collaborators who partner with a biostatistician in their scientific planning have innovative studies tailored to their specific questions of interest,” explained Dr. Abbott. “This means that time and research dollars can focus on data that illuminates the research question.” 

The SCOR Grant Funds Promising Research

Dr. Craig Jordan’s five-year SCOR grant will support continued research on targeting leukemia stem cells and coordinate efforts to bring forward improved therapies for patients with acute myeloid leukemia. The goal of this grant in controlling long-term disease uses a threefold approach: 

  1. Target key metabolic properties by use of VEN+AZA to kill AML stem cells by blocking their ability to produce energy 

  2. Use immunotherapy strategies (CAR-T approaches) to teach a patient’s own immune system (T cells) to target AML stem cells, and

  3. Identify new methods of treating patients so that normal tissues are not damaged in a way that influences growth and survival of AML stem cells. 

These three strategies will be incorporated in their clinical trial that focuses on analyzing each patient’s unique AML stem cells and customizing therapy as a result. 

“This research award will allow us to investigate the least toxic, most effective ways of killing AML stem cells including the development of new drugs and combination therapies,” explained Dr. Jordan. 

For this collaborating team of doctors and biostatisticians, this grant is just the beginning of promising work.

Topics: Data and Health