Dr. Cerchietti Receives Doris Duke Clinical Scientist Award for Study of B-Cell Lymphoma
New faculty member Dr. Leandro Cerchietti, Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology, has received a Doris Duke Clinical Scientist Development Award (one of only 12 such awards given yearly by the Doris Duke Foundation). Funding is $150,000 per year spanning 3 years; his project centers on the role of metabolism in determining the clinical behavior of tumors, using metabolomic profiling for the study of B-cell lymphoma.
"Metabolism" is a term that refers to all the biochemical processes of an organ, tumor, or cell, that sustain life. These processes allow cells to grow, reproduce, maintain their structures and respond to environmental changes. Dr. Cerchietti's study will reveal how -- and what -- the lymphoma "eats" to survive. It will also explore how these pathways can be "manipulated" in order to "starve them to death." The goals is to ultimately launch the development of a new class of specific (and non-toxic drugs), and treatments, that could benefit patients with lymphomas.
"We will harness the power of metabolomic profiling to detect certain biological processes in patients; to ascertain whether drugs are hitting their targets in vivo; and to predict clinical outcomes in patients. I think this work has the potential to make important scientific and translational contributions to the diagnosis and treatment of B-cell lymphomas," says Dr. Cerchietti.
The metabolomic tools that Dr. Cerchietti utilizes are known as "high-throughput technologies" which allow researchers to distinguish metabolic pathways unique to a certain disease; in this case, B-cell lymphoma. "We want to detect lymphomas using a drop of blood that we will process to separate thousands of chemical components," explains Dr. Cerchietti. "By applying computational and mathematical algorithms, we will be able to detect and differentiate compounds from lymphoma, versus normal organs. We will then follow it through the disease evolution."
Because the lymphoma-specific chemical signature comes from only a few lymphoma cells, Dr. Cerchietti and team will be able to detect the presence of lymphoma cells when the tumors are still undetectable clinically. For patients already diagnosed with a lymphoma, the chemical blood drop anlaysis will allow for determination of how aggressive the lymphoma is and the right moment to administer treatment.
"The purpose of our study," notes Dr. Cerchietti, "is to find new ways to detect lymphomas before they become an incurable and aggressive disease and to find new cures by improving currently available treatment. This will allow doctors to follow the treatment and to detect treatment failures much earlier and in a more gentle way for the patient (no biopsy or surgery involved) than current techniques."
Dr. Leandro Cerchietti obtained his MD from the University of Salvador (USAL) in Buenos Aires, and is the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Research Scholar and an Assistant Professor of Medicine.