LITTLE ROCK — A $1.7 million grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will allow a University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) researcher to study a potential new therapy to reduce the risk of blood cancer caused by ionizing radiation.


Daohong Zhou, M.D., was awarded the grant for his research team’s work addressing whether the ability to restore the fitness of a person’s blood cell-generating cells — called hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) — after they undergo radiation can prevent blood cancers such as leukemia or bone marrow disorders known as myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), all of which are induced by ionizing radiation.

“Earlier this year, we published a study showing that chemotherapy induces cellular aging, also called senescence, in normal tissue and promotes adverse effects such as fatigue, cancer relapse and metastasis. Now, we will test whether restoring fitness to blood cell-generating stem cells by selectively eliminating old and damaged HSCs after ionizing radiation exposure has the potential to prevent MDS and leukemia from occurring,” said Zhou, associate director for basic research in the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

To eliminate the old or senescent cells, Zhou’s team will use a senolytic drug discovered by his research group a year ago. Senolytic drugs selectively kill old or senescent cells.

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