Finding new ways to treat acute myeloid leukemia

Craig EckfeldtAcute myeloid leukemia (AML) is one of the most challenging forms of cancer to treat in adults. A major obstacle is that chemotherapy, the current standard of care for AML, is not as precise as other treatments and often destroys healthy cells in addition to cancer cells.

With Masonic support, Craig Eckfeldt, M.D., Ph.D., part of the U’s hematology, oncology, and transplantation faculty, is investigating how AML cells are wired in order to develop more targeted therapies.

Recently, Eckfeldt’s team found that a cancer signaling pathway, called RALB, promotes AML cell survival and that interfering with this pathway may be an effective way to treat the disease. They are now exploring ways to disrupt this pathway and, ultimately, prompt natural killer immune cells to recognize and kill AML cells more effectively.

“While targeted cancer therapy and immunotherapy have improved outcomes for patients with many types of cancer, they have not been widely adapted for AML,” says Eckfeldt. “This combination of therapies represents a completely new treatment strategy.”

“Support from Minnesota Masonic Charities means everything. Finding funding to support new ideas, particularly as a junior investigator, is difficult in the current research environment. Masonic support has been vital to keeping my efforts going and to propelling my career as a physician-scientist.”

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