(April 17, 2019) -- Only about one in four people diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) survive five years after the initial diagnosis. To improve that survival rate, researchers at UTSA and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center created an online atlas to identify and classify protein signatures present at AML diagnosis.
The new protein classifications will help researchers and clinicians recommend better treatment and personalized medicine for patients suffering from this aggressive cancer, which occurs in the blood and bone marrow. The breakthrough research is published in the latest April issue of Nature Biomedical Engineering.
Researcher Amina Qutub, an associate professor in the UTSA Department of Biomedical Engineering (who joined UTSA in 2018 from Rice University), and oncologist Steven M. Kornblau, a professor and practicing clinician in the Department of Leukemia at UT MD Anderson Cancer Center, examined the genetic, epigenetic and environmental diversity that occurs in cancerous cells due to AML. Analyzing proteomic screens of 205 patient biopsies obtained at MD Anderson Cancer Center, first author Chenyue Wendy Hu (then a graduate student at the Qutub Lab, now at Uber Technologies), Kornblau and Qutub developed a new computational method called MetaGalaxy to categorize the protein signatures into 154 different patterns based on their cellular functions and pathways.
By approaching this challenge through the unique lens of developing a quantitative map for each leukemia patient from protein expression in their blood and bone marrow, rather than the standard lens of qualitative metrics and genetic risks alone, Qutub, Kornblau and their research collaborators will be able to more precisely categorize patients into risk groups and better predict their treatment outcomes.
To better understand the AML hallmarks at the proteomic (protein system) level and to share the results of their work with other researchers, the UTSA biomedical engineering professor and her team including Hu, and students Andrew Ligeralde (now at the University of California, Berkeley) and Allie Raybon (from the UTSA Department of Biomedical Engineering) built a web portal known as the Leukemia Proteome Atlas. Designed by Qutub’s and Kornblau’s teams with input from clinical collaborators worldwide, the online portal gives oncologists and cancer scientists the tools they need to investigate AML protein expression patterns from one patient to the next. It also provides investigators around the world with leads for new leukemia research and new computational tools.
Since many genetic mutations cannot be targeted, the proteomic profiling and target identification process used in this research study will accelerate the identification of therapeutic targets. It also propels researchers much closer to the development of personalized combination therapies for patients based on their unique protein signatures.
“Acute myelogenous leukemia presents as a cancer so heterogeneous that it is often described as not one, but a collection of diseases,” said Qutub. “To decipher the clues found in proteins from blood and bone marrow of leukemia patients, we developed a new computer analysis - MetaGalaxy – that identifies molecular hallmarks of leukemia. These hallmarks are analogous to the way constellations guide navigation of the stars: they provide a map to protein changes for leukemia. Our ‘hallmark’ predictions are being experimentally tested through drug screens and can be ‘programmed’ into cells through synthetic manipulation of proteins. A next step to bring this work to the clinic and impact patient care is testing whether these signatures lead to the aggressive growth or resistance to chemotherapy observed in leukemia patients. At the same time, to rapidly accelerate research in leukemia and advance the hunt for treatments, we provide the hallmarks in an online compendium where fellow researchers and oncologists worldwide can build from the resource, tools and findings, LeukemiaAtlas.org.”
Celebrate UTSA’s 50th Anniversary and share social media posts about the 50th using the hashtag #UTSA50.
Emerging artists work in the full range of traditional methods and materials as well as in interdisciplinary and new media. Themes range from social and cultural critique to investigations that are challenging and exquisite explorations in creative form and image.UTSA Art Gallery, Arts Building, Main Campus
Juan Vallejo’s art conveys his experience as a childhood migrant worker. Opening reception: Thurs, Dec. 5, 6–9 p.m. Free and open to the public.UTSA Terminal 136, Blue Star Arts Complex, 136 Blue St., San Antonio
Portions of Cook Road will be closed for construction related to the new Student Success Center project and Americans with Disabilities Act sidewalk upgrades.Cook Road, Main Campus
Out of the violence comes a silence, then a song. Thus begins an extraordinary night of camaraderie, music and peace. A remarkable true experience, told in the words and songs of the men who lived it. UTSA partners with The Public Theater for this event. Contact the theater at (210) 458-3288 for scheduling requests.Buena Vista Theater, Downtown Campus
Forty-six modular units will be delivered to Main Campus as part of the new Student Success Center project. The units will enter campus at Brennan Avenue and will travel to their final destination, south of the North Paseo Building and Graduate School and Research Building via Tobin Avenue, Bauerle Road and Devine Avenue.Brennan Avenue, Tobin Avenue, Bauerle Road, Devine Avenue, Main Campus
Enjoy two classic holiday performances. Children’s Ballet of San Antonio will present two of The Nutcracker. Our Lady of Guadalupe Church will perform a traditional Pastorela play, a morality tale about shepherds going to Bethlehem and the snares the devil uses to dissuade them. Performances are included with regular ITC admission.UTSA Institute of Texan Cultures, 801 E. César E. Chavez Blvd., San Antonio
Celebrating graduating students from the College of Engineering and the College of Liberal and Fine Arts. Guest speaker: Susan Pape '86, chairman of the San Antonio Express-News.Alamodome, 100 Montana St., San Antonio
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