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A CCSRI Innovation to Impact grant has been awarded to Dr. Xiaoyan Jiang

Posted July 17, 2019 | News

Congratulations to Dr. Xiaoyan Jiang who just got awarded a 3-year Innovation to Impact grant by the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute.

Title: A Novel Treatment Approach to Overcome TKI Resistance in BCR-ABL+ Human Leukemia

Funding period: Aug 2019 – Jul 2022


Blood cancers are common, with an overall 5-year survival rate of 56%. This is because most current therapies are short-lived; drug resistance and relapse pose significant problems. Life-long treatment is required, with side effects and a high cost. We and others have discovered this is mainly due to the inability of current therapies to eradicate blood cancer stem cells, which maintain potential for relapse. There is a need to develop new
therapies that specifically eliminate these cells.

There are currently no drugs that directly target blood cancer stem cells in a specific and potent way, nor any related drugs that are approved as therapeutics. My research group has been collaborating with clinical leaders and large drug companies to identify new drug targets and key pathways, and to develop new combination therapies that directly target drug-resistant blood cancer stem cells, which will lead to new, rationally designed, more effective, less toxic, personalized therapies.

We identified a druggable target ILK; it is abnormally expressed in blood cancer stem cells and inhibiting its activity using a new drug (QLT0256) sensitizes these cells to standard therapy. The drug inhibits abnormal functions of mitochondria that provide increased energy for cancer cell growth. We will investigate vulnerabilities in energy metabolism regulated by ILK and develop combination drug strategies to target abnormal ILK and mitochondrial functions and eradicate cancer stem cells.

The identification of blood cancer stem cells triggered the idea that blood cancer is primarily driven by a rare population of cancer stem cells. This has important clinical implications, since many anti-cancer therapies are how evaluated based on their ability to reduce leukemia burden, but if the therapies are not killing these stem cells, drug resistance may develop with time, causing disease relapse and death. This study will test a new combination strategy that directly targets blood cancer stem cells with unique vulnerabilities in energy metabolism, which may overcome drug resistance, leading to a long-term cure for CML/ALL.