Conference examines role of chromosome changes in cancer

Conference examines role of chromosome changes in cancer

Symposium celebrates career of Janet Davison Rowley, cancer research pioneer

October 28, 2005

The University of Chicago will present a conference on "Chromosomes and Cancer: From Translocations to Targeted Therapies," on Monday, November 7, 2005, at Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th Street, in Chicago.

The conference, sponsored by the University of Chicago Cancer Research Center and the Section of Hematology/Oncology of the Department of Medicine at the University of Chicago, will update participants on progress in understanding cancer and examine the latest advances in targeted therapies for leukemia and other cancers--treatments rooted in Rowley's fundamental discoveries.

It will feature many of the world's leading experts on the genetics of leukemia and lymphoma and the development of targeted therapies based on genetic understanding of cancer, including Brian Drucker, MD, who developed Gleevec based on a 1972 discovery by Rowley, and Clara Bloomfield, MD, who was among the first to suggest, and later show, that adult acute leukemia was curable with chemotherapy.

In the early 1970s, Rowley, the Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, Human Genetics, and the Committees on Genetics and Cancer Biology, at the University of Chicago--who turned 80 in April--produced the first solid evidence that cancer was essentially a genetic disorder.

In 1972, she discovered the first chromosome "translocation," an exchange of small pieces of DNA between chromosomes 8 and 21 in patients with acute myeloblastic leukemia. Later that same year, she found that something similar happened in patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia--a crucial segment of chromosome 22 broke off and moved to chromosome 9, where it did not belong. At the same time, a tiny piece of chromosome 9, which included an important cancer-causing gene, had moved to the breakpoint on chromosome 22. Because of this exchange, genes that regulated cell growth and division were no longer located in their normal positions on the chromosome.

Rowley and colleagues subsequently identified other translocations tied to specific malignancies, such as the 14;18 translocation seen in follicular lymphoma, and the 15;17 translocation that causes acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL). Quickly picking up on her lead that certain translocations defined specific forms of cancer, scientists around the world joined the search for chromosomes that either exchanged genetic material or in some cases lost it altogether. Others used the translocations as road maps to find specific cancer causing genes, opening up the current era of cancer genetics, accurate diagnostic techniques, and precisely targeted therapies.

Rowley has received many awards for her discoveries, including the Lasker Prize and the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest scientific honor, in 1998, and the Dorothy Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Research in 2005. She is also an outspoken member of the President's Council on Bioethics.

Program: Monday, November 7

8:00 a.m. Introduction/Welcome
Everett Vokes, MD, and Olufunmilayo Olopade, MBBS, FACP

Session I: From Translocations to Targeted Therapies
Chairs: Manuel Diaz, MD, and Elizabeth Shima Rich, MD, PhD

8:20 Michelle Le Beau, PhD, professor of medicine and director, University of Chicago Cancer Research Center

8:40 James Vardiman, MD, professor of medicine and pathology, director of clinical hematology laboratory, University of Chicago

9:00 Clara Bloomfield, MD, professor of cancer research, Comprehensive Cancer Center, James Cancer Hospital & Solove Research Institute, Ohio State University

9:30 Brian Drucker, MD, professor of medicine, Oregon Health Sciences University

Session II: Modeling Human Hematopoietic Disease<
Chairs: Giuseppina Nucifora, PhD, and Olatoyosi Odenike, MD

10:30 Gary Gilliland, MD, PhD, professor of medicine, Harvard Medical School, and
director of the leukemia program at the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center

11:00 James Downing, MD, scientific director and chair of pathology; co-leader of the hematological malignancies program and director of the molecular pathology laboratory, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

11:30 Timothy Ley, MD, Wolff Professor of Medicine and Genetics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO, and associate director for basic research at the Siteman Cancer Center

12:00 p.m. Jeffrey Trent, PhD, president, scientific director, and senior investigator of the Genetic Basis of Human Disease Division, Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), Phoenix, Arizona

Session III: Beyond Translocations to New Targets
Chair: Feyruz Rassool, PhD

1:30 Nancy Speck, PhD, professor of biochemistry and associate director for basic science at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center

2:00 Stefan Bohlander, MD, Professor, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich, Germany

2:30 Donald Small, MD, PhD, professor of oncology and pediatrics, Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, Johns Hopkins University

3:00 Lucy Godley, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine, University of Chicago

Session IV: Genomic Approaches to Cancer Classification
Chair: Nancy Zeleznik-Le, PhD

4:00 Michael Thirman, MD, associate professor of medicine, University of Chicago

4:30 Ruud Delwel, PhD, Department of Hematology, Erasmus University Medical
Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands

5:00 Janet Rowley, MD, Blum-Riese Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine, Molecular Genetics and Cell Biology, Human Genetics, and the Committees on Genetics and Cancer Biology, University of Chicago