Why the University of Chicago?

The University of Chicago has an unmatched record in blood cancer research starting with the development of the first chemotherapy in 1943. A few decades later, in the 1970’s, Janet Rowley, MD, an extremely distinguished Professor of Medicine at the University of Chicago, discovered a chromosomal translocation (a genetic anomaly) in the blood cells of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Her insight proved central to our understanding of the relationships between genetics and cancer, and initiated many important discoveries concerning other types of leukemias and lymphomas.

Since Dr. Rowley’s discovery, University of Chicago researchers and clinicians have been researching new methods to provide individualized treatment plans for patients with leukemia. The University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center (UCCCC) was among the first center in the country to test experimental leukemia drugs in clinical trials. For example, UCCCC researchers were among the first to test GleevecTM, a targeted gene therapy that has revolutionized CML treatment.

Dr. Janet Rowley

For t-AML in particular, the UCCCC was the first to identify the main features of the disease and to discover how it arises in patients as a result of treatment-induced DNA damage. Our clinicians have been diagnosing and treating patients with t-AML for the past three decades, amassing one of world’s largest t-AML tissue banks. In short, we know t-AML better than anyone else.

Today, the UCCCC remains at the forefront of leukemia research and patient care. UCCCC scientists and clinicians are conducting clinical trials on the next generation of targeted therapies for patients with leukemia. Insights gained from these trials will be translated into new, molecularly-targeted therapies to treat patients.

Few other institutions in the world have the depth of expertise, culture of interdisciplinary collaboration, and technological resources available at the University of Chicago.

This grand legacy of basic discoveries and clinical experience is serving a high-powered, interdisciplinary cadre of 13 top scientists whose expertise ties together laboratory science, information technology, and clinical treatment. UCCCC Director, Michelle Le Beau, PhD, a pioneer in t-AML research, is leading a team that includes pediatric and adult hematologists/oncologists and pathologists who specialize in t-AML, world experts in blood stem cell biology, pioneers in systems biology and genomic profiling, leaders in pharmacogenomics, and renowned computational biologists. All of their expertise — covering molecules, cells, tumors, organ systems and, ultimately, patients — is required to meet the systems biology challenge.

The University of Chicago’s Duchossois Center for Advanced Medicine houses the Medical Center’s diagnostic and outpatient treatment services.

Few other institutions in the world have the depth of expertise, culture of interdisciplinary collaboration, and technological resources available at the University of Chicago, including:

  • Extensive research expertise in clinical oncology, hematopathology, hematopoiesis, genetics, genomics, systems biology, and computational modeling of molecular networks;
  • An extensive clinical database and tissue bank of stored leukemia samples (>3,000 samples) for research; and
  • A robust clinical trials infrastructure, with expertise in developing early-phase clinical trials and translating lab discoveries into new therapies.

“The stars are really aligned for this project,” says Dr. Le Beau. “The entire cycle of translational research is represented right here in the team of scientists working together on this project.”