Nora C Heisterkamp

PIBBS MENTOR

Professor

Pediatrics, Pathology (Division of Hem-Onc)
Keck School of Medicine
The Saban Research Institute
Childrens Hospital Los Angeles

Research Topics

  • glycomics as a tool for diagnosis and treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia
  • NK cells
  • Cancer genetics
  • Signal transduction
  • Leukemia-stromal adhesion mechanisms
  • role of the BAFF-R in survival of ALL cells
  • molecular mechanisms of environmentally-mediated drug resistance

Research Images

Research Overview

Mechanisms of leukemogenesis and drug resistance:
Current ongoing areas of study include:
- Investigating how specific carbohydrate modifications and carbohydrate-binding proteins such as Galectins affect acute lymphoblastic leukemia survival and drug resistance.
- Determining if NK cells can be used to eradicate residual leukemia cells in the bone marrow.
- Characterizing interactions of acute lymphoblastic leukemias with cells in their environment and how these interactions, such as those promoted by the SDF1alpha-CXCR4 axis, protect them against chmeotherapy. We showed that the inhibition of this axis can make the leukemia cells more sensitive to drug treatment.
- Identifying cell surface molecules on acute lymphoblastic leukemia cells that can be used to more effectively treat this type of leukemia. We were the first to identify the BAFF-R on acute lymphoblastic leukemias.

Accomplishments in the area of cancer research in the past include the unraveling of major aspects of the molecular basis of chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) and Ph-chromosome positive acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL): during the period of 1981-1984, we identified two genes, BCR and ABL, which become fused as a result of a chromosomal translocation in CML and Ph-positive ALL.