Feb. 1, 2019:

Thought Leader Perspectives: Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a rapidly progressive form of blood cancer that can occur at any age but mostly presents in patients age 60 and older, represents the most common cause of leukemia-related mortality in the United States and accounts for approximately 21,000 new cases and 10,000 deaths per year.

For decades, the therapeutic progress in AML has been slower than in other cancers, which is in part due to the enormous genomic heterogeneity of the disease. Although the approval of several targeted agents by the FDA since April 2017 inaugurated an exciting new era in AML therapy, only a subset of patients are expected to benefit from these tailored treatment options. The great progress in understanding the pathophysiology of leukemia as well as the related discovery of potential new drug targets, in concert with recent advances in immunotherapy, has sparked a wave of innovative combinatorial treatment strategies that await to be tested in clinical trials. The successful implementation of such trials, however, demands new concepts of cooperative research, including the closer cooperation between clinical and research centers with the goal to harmonize and align research efforts.

The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium’s Myeloid Malignancies Clinical Trial Working Group was formed approximately three years ago and is composed of a multidisciplinary team of physicians and scientists in various fields of leukemia research (e.g., clinical trials methodology, biomarker discovery, molecular genetics and diagnostics, etc.). The leukemia research laboratories within the consortium have a long-standing experience, reputation and collaborative working relationship that is critical to drive the success of the Big Ten CRC. To date, the working group’s productive collaboration has resulted in two clinical trials that are expected to open in the first quarter of 2019. Additional concepts are currently under review.

Major research programs at our institution, Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center, include the Hematopoiesis and Hematologic Malignancies (HHM) and the Experimental and Developmental Therapeutics (EDT) research programs. The mission of these programs is focused on the promotion, development, and exploitation of mechanisms-based research to enhance the treatment of blood cancers, including leukemia.

Given the acknowledged preeminence of the NCI-designated IU Simon Cancer Center and IU School of Medicine as a center for biomedical research and clinical service, our leukemia experts are excited to participate in the consortium and to establish and strengthen a network that has the potential to substantially change the face of leukemia research.

Heiko Konig, MD, PhD
Assistant Professor of Medicine
IU Simon Cancer Center
IU School of Medicine
Co-chair, Big Ten CRC Myeloid Malignancies Clinical Trial Working Group


About the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium: The Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium was created in 2013 to transform the conduct of cancer research through collaborative, hypothesis-driven, highly translational oncology trials that leverage the scientific and clinical expertise of Big Ten universities. The goal of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium is to create a unique team-research culture to drive science rapidly from ideas to new approaches to cancer treatment. Within this innovative environment, today’s research leaders collaborate with and mentor the research leaders of tomorrow with the unified goal of improving the lives of all patients with cancer.

About the Big Ten Conference: The Big Ten Conference is an association of world-class universities whose member institutions share a common mission of research, graduate, professional and undergraduate teaching and public service. Founded in 1896, the Big Ten has sustained a comprehensive set of shared practices and policies that enforce the priority of academics in the lives of students competing in intercollegiate athletics and emphasize the values of integrity, fairness and competitiveness. The broad-based programs of the 14 Big Ten institutions will provide over $200 million in direct financial support to almost 9,500 students for more than 11,000 participation opportunities on 350 teams in 42 different sports. The Big Ten sponsors 28 official conference sports, 14 for men and 14 for women, including the addition of men’s ice hockey and men’s and women’s lacrosse since 2013. For more information, visit www.bigten.org.