The goal of our laboratory is to develop better therapies to treat patients with acute myeloid leukemia. In leukemia, like many other cancer types, a small subset of cells called cancer stem cells are thought to drive disease initiation, pathogenesis and relapse. While conventional cytotoxic chemotherapies often reduce the bulk tumor, developing therapeutic strategies to target cancer stem cells has been more challenging. In acute myeloid leukemia, the most common form of adult acute leukemia, the long-term survival rate is approximately 21%; therefore, therapies designed to eradicate leukemia stem cells (LSCs) are urgently needed.
LSCs have unique properties that differentiate them from the bulk leukemic cells and normal blood stem cells. One property that differentiates LSCs from other cells is their unique metabolic requirements. Our lab studies LSC metabolism with the objective of identifying therapeutic strategies to target LSC specific metabolic properties resulting in LSC death. For example, we know that LSCs are highly reliant on oxidative phosphorylation for survival. Current efforts in the lab focus on identifying and targeting pathways that regulate oxidative phosphorylation including amino acid metabolism, glutathione biology, and mitochondrial sirtuins.