Wing (John) Chan, MD
Dr. Wing (John) Chan is the Amelia and Austin Vickery Professor of Pathology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, where he is co-Director of the Center for Leukemia and Lymphoma Research and co-Leader of the Lymphoma Research Program at UNMC's Eppley Cancer Institute.
Dr. Chan is currently working on an LRF-funded grant in follicular lymphoma (FL) that aims to identify genetic changes in the disease. FL is caused by genetic abnormalities in B-lymphocytes that increase cell survival and growth. It is typically an indolent (slow-growing) cancer, however, in about 30% of patients, additional genetic abnormalities cause the tumor to transform into an aggressive lymphoma (transformed follicular lymphoma, or tFL), markedly worsening the prognosis. Dr. Chan's research team has carefully studied 11 paired FL-tFL samples to identify recurrent mutations and the mutations associated with tumor transformation. They are now using this information on identified mutations to sequence about 500 genes on additional tFL samples. This study will generate reliable and comprehensive information on the most frequent mutations in FL and the mutations related to transformation. Selected mutations will be further studied to elucidate how they contribute to FL and tFL.
Drawn to FL research because of the clinical need for better patient outcomes, Dr. Chan notes that there has been significant progress in gene expression profiling studies on lymphomas over the last ten years. His home institution, the University of Nebraska Medical Center, is home to a large tissue bank and clinical database. His collaborators in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Molecular Profiling Project (LMPP) consortium, have contributed almost 600 cases of FL frozen tissues and clinical data. "This is a vast clinical, material, and scientific resource to propel FL research forward," Dr. Chan says. The availability of this material prompted him to propose his FL sequencing project to LRF.
FL is the second most common lymphoma in the United States -- approximately 24,000 new cases are diagnosed each year -- and it remains incurable. Research that leads to better understanding of the biology of the disease is crucial to developing better treatment strategies. Dr Chan's research will contribute to a more complete understanding of the genetic profiles of FL and tFL. "We fully believe that this investigation will help us identify novel targets to improve the treatment of FL patients," he says.
Dr. Chan's three-year project was funded as part of LRF's 2011 Follicular Lymphoma Research Initiative Clinical Studies Grant. "In the current funding environment, foundation funding has become more and more important to maintain the research momentum," he says, "especially in cancers that are relatively infrequent such as lymphoma." A member of LRF's Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) since 2007, Dr. Chan also participated in LRF's Follicular Directions Workshop in November 2011, and frequently attends the annual Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) Workshop. He calls working with LRF "exciting, because the awards and the associated meetings bring together scientists and clinicians with common interests and common goals."
Dr. Chan is fully aware that scientific research requires a communal effort to achieve results. "I am most grateful to the many patients and donors who make it possible for us to carry out our research projects," he says. "We are also grateful to patient advocates who are constantly and diligently advocating for research and resources for lymphoma patients. And I would also like to thank my colleagues who make this research possible, exciting, and enjoyable."
To learn more about the science of cancer genomics and Dr. Chan's work, see the Summer 2013 Research Report.
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