Researcher Spotlight: Jean L. Koff, MD, MS

Winship Cancer Institute

Post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD) is a type of lymphoma that may occur in patients who have undergone stem cell or organ transplants. While some PTLD patients are cured simply with a reduction in their anti-rejection medication, others ultimately succumb to their disease despite aggressive chemotherapy. Dr. Koff’s Career Development Award project will seek to identify common factors that can help identify patients at high risk of poor outcomes. “We will assemble a large group of PTLD patients and capture detailed clinical information and tumor specimens,” she says. “We will then use next-generation genetic sequencing and characterize the immune cells of PTLD tumors to identify patient and molecular factors that contribute to poor survival.”

Dr. Koff completed her MD, residency, and fellowship at Emory University’s Winship Cancer Institute, where she is currently an Instructor. She also recently completed an MS in Clinical Research. Having an interest in lymphoid malignancies since medical school, Dr. Koff says that she was particularly drawn to understanding why some lymphoma patients respond to first-line therapy while others continually relapse or fail to respond, leading her to her current project. “A significant knowledge gap exists in the understanding of dysregulated [mutated] molecular pathways across PTLD subtypes. This limits opportunities to identify therapeutic targets or to explore prevention strategies,” Dr. Koff notes. “My LRF-funded project seeks to fill these knowledge gaps and serve as a basis for developing treatment strategies that will improve PTLD patient outcomes.”

Dr. Koff adds that, since so little is known about the molecular biology of PTLD and its relationship to patient outcomes, her LRF funding will help her generate data that could have a long-term impact on both her career and general understanding of this disease. “This project and its associated career development plan will allow me to cultivate expertise in assembling and analyzing large datasets across the key technologies that will impact lymphoma clinical and translational science,” she says. “During my career, I expect to apply findings from these LRF-funded studies to inform new clinical trials aimed at improving outcomes for patients with PTLD.”