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Sylvester Director Dr. Stephen D. Nimer to Study Protein’s Link to Leukemia

Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., director of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, was awarded a $300,000 Translational Research Program grant from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS).

Leukemia blast cells.

Nimer’s laboratory has been studying the RUNX1 protein, previously referred to as AML1, because it is commonly involved in chromosomal translocations seen in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). For several decades, Nimer has studied the RUNX1 protein and its related, leukemia-associated, fusion protein RUNX1-ETO. In the course of his studies, he identified several histone modifying enzymes that play an important role in epigenetic gene regulation, and can alter the activity of RUNX1 in the cell.

This finding served as the basis for his research project titled, “Epigenetic-modifying enzymes in FPD/AML.” This project is focused on a rare genetic disorder — familial platelet disorder with a predisposition to AML — in which affected family members have a low platelet count and a predisposition to developing leukemia after many decades. Individuals with this syndrome are born with mutations in the RUNX1 gene that decreases its function.

Given the many decades between birth and the development of leukemia, Nimer and his laboratory are studying ways to preserve normal RUNX1 function, so as to forestall the development of leukemia. In the course of this work, the Nimer lab will also be studying how to treat leukemias that have mutations in the RUNX1 gene, using both human cells and mouse models.

“Our laboratory has learned that the enzymes affecting oncogene function can be targeted successfully in treating cancer,” said Nimer. “The ability to boost the function of tumor suppressor proteins represents a great opportunity for cancer prevention. Our work has the potential to rapidly affect the lives of patients with leukemia and those at risk for leukemia. We are thrilled to be supported by the LLS.”

Tags: Acute Myeloid Leukemia, AML, Miller School of Medicine, RUNX1, Stephen D. Nimer, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami