U of M Researchers Designing New Drugs to Fight Leukemia
Doctors at the University of Minnesota have found a new way to battle leukemia. Thanks to a new research grant, they're designing drugs that actually bring the immune system into close contact with the disease in order to better kill the cancer cells.
Among the many who might benefit: Dylan Mead, a 21-year-old from St. Francis “I've had six rounds of chemo, either a three or five day stay. And then I've had radiation, and I just got done with my bone marrow transplant,” he explained.
Dylan has had enough.
“I'd be nice to get rid of all the chemo side effects. That's probably the worst thing about this journey,” he said.
If doctors Dan Vallera and Michael Verneris have their way, Dylan's cancer treatment torture will soon be a thing of the past.
According to Dr. Verneris, “We're going to create these molecules to not only kill the cancer but then also to train the immune system to recognize that cancer and eradicate it.”
Dr. Vallera added, “It's cuttting edge and it's something that is going to be a good alternative to chemotherapy.”
It's also expensive. But thanks to the St. Baldrick's foundation, a volunteer-driven charity committed to funding promising cancer research, the doctors now have $100,000 to move forward.
“Funding is at an all time low at the moment,” Verneris said. “And so it's incredibly competitive to get these proposals funded.”
This year, Minnesota has hosted seven St. Baldrick’s fundraising events, raising more than $105,000. The next fundraiser is scheduled for Sunday, October 14th at Kieran’s Irish Pub in downtown Minneapolis, from 2-7 p.m. Participants are taking pledges and shaving their heads, to stand in solidarity with cancer patients. More information an be found at http://stbaldricks.org.
Deb Wynia, a St. Baldrick’s volunteer, is hoping the new research will help her 9-year-old nephew, Justin Miller. “Anything that's going to help him target those cells and help him kill off those cells would be helpful,” she said.
Deb and her husband Chad say Justin might not be alive without the money St. Baldrick's has raised for this kind of research.
Chad explained, “I mean he's been on his death bed—I hate to say it--more times than we can count.”
Dr. Vallera said, “We've shown that it works in vitro, we're working on animal data right now.”
The doctors hope that within three yearss the laboratory research will be advanced enough to take to a clinic with real patients.
For folks like Dylan Mead, it can’t come fast enough.
“The whole world kinda drops on you,” he said.
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org