The University of Rochester is receiving $1.7 million dollars in grant funding to find new and better treatments for leukemia. The grants are three separate funds: $875,000 from the National Institutes of Health, $600,000 from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, $230,000 from the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation.
Leukemia is a blood-born cancer which, according to the National Cancer Institute, kills more than 20-thousand people a year. There are 44-thousand new cases each year according to the NCI. Leukemia is treated in several ways including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy, however, the disease has the potential to return in some cases. Researchers at Rochester’s Wilmot Cancer Center say stem cell therapies may hold the most promise for the disease. If doctors can treat the stem cells, they are then able to treat the root of the disease.
“They (current treatments) work but they don't target the root of the disease, so most of the patients relapse. So, we're hoping to get to the root of that population of cells,” says Dr. Monica Guzman, a leukemia researcher at the Wilmot Cancer Center.
Cancer cells are not embryonic stem cells, often the focus of very heated debates. Some of the Wilmot Cancer Center’s research is already seeing results. A study done in 2005 on a common plant called the "bachelor button" or “feverfew” showed it contains an ingredient which attacks cancer cells at the stem cell levels. The feverfew study is scheduled to enter human clinical trials at the end of this year.