Dr. Michael Andreeff
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Departments of Leukemia and Stem Cell Transplantation
Molecular Hematology and Therapy is a Section in the Leukemia Department with close links to the Department of Stem Cell Transplantation and Cellular Therapy. Focus is on leukemia research, with emphasis on apoptosis regulation, signaling pathways (FLT3-Ras-Ras-MEK-ERK, PI3K-AKT-mTOR, STAT3 and 5) , their links to apoptosis and autophagy and to the micro-environment. The Section encompasses 12 faculty and 25 additional scientists and includes the MD Anderson CCSG-sponsored "Flow Cytometry/Cell Sorting/Confocal Microscopy" Core Lab. Investigations of apoptosis and cell signaling pathways resulted in the development of new drug targets including Bcl-2, BclXL, McL-1, MDM2/p53, inhibitors-of-apoptosis proteins (XIAP, Survivin, cIAP1,2), FLT3-ITD, AKT/mTOR and pERK, which we have moved from basic to translational research into trials. We emphasize that successful drug development has to target the right cells ("primary stem cells", not cell line cells) in the physiological, i.e. hypoxic tumor microenvironment. The group has major expertise in the study of hematopoietic and solid tumor systems . We were first to report the critical role of bone marrow-derived MSC (mesenchymal stem cells) in the formation of tumor stroma and have developed therapies that deliver therapeutic genes into tumors by way of MSC. Several transgenic and knock-out mouse models have been developed to provide a better understanding of tumor- and microenvironmental molecular biology. Leukemia cells with most relevant translocations and mutations have been generated in collaboration with CSH. Major efforts are ongoing to disrupt interactions between leukemia/tumor stem cells and their micro-environment (targeting CXCR4, VLA-4, CD44). The first fully human system forming bone and bone marrow has been developed in immuno-deficient NOG mice, whose components can be genetically modified. Finally, in collaborations with pharmaceutical corporations and biotechnology companies, drugs are being developed targeting genes, RNAs and proteins of interest.