Characterization of Pediatric Leukemia Stem Cells
Kolja Eppert, PhD
Kolja Eppert is an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, at McGill University. His lab is part of the Department of Pediatrics, Division of Hematology-Oncology at the McGill University Health Centre – Montreal Children’s Hospital. He completed his PhD in Dr. Irene Andrulis’ lab (University of Toronto) where he identified novel genes that drive the development of solid cancers such as sarcomas and colorectal carcinoma. He followed this with a postdoctoral fellowship at the University Health Network, Toronto, in Dr. John Dick’s laboratory. While there he studied the gene programs that regulate cancer stem cells.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) accounts for more than half of childhood leukemia deaths while only representing approximately 25% of leukemia incidence, even with very aggressive treatment. In adult AML poor outcome is mediated by the activity of a rare population of leukemia stem cells that are relatively resistant to therapy. Similar to normal stem cells, leukemia stem cells are rare cells and are the only ones capable of initiating and sustaining the disease, producing all the other cancer cells in a patient. However, little is known of the organization and stem cells of pediatric AML. Pediatric AML is different from the adult disease, with a unique distribution of molecular features (eg. NPM1 and FLT3 mutations, p16 expression) and treatment response. The goal of Dr Eppert’s research is to investigate the organizational structure of pediatric AML in order to improve our understanding of the nature of this disease and, ultimately, improve patient survival through the development of novel therapeutics.