Pediatrics and Physiology & Biophysics
Keck School of Medicine/Children's Hospital Los Angeles
Director, CHLA Diabetes & Obesity Program
Director, Keck/Caltech Combined MD/PhD Program
Research OverviewObesity can cause a number of negative health effects. One of these effects is that being obese increases the risk of cancer and makes cancer harder to cure. We are trying to figure out the mechanisms responsible for obesity interacting with cancer.
Leukemia is the most common type of cancer in children. Researchers in The Saban Research Institute at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles discovered that children who were obese at the time they were diagnosed with the most common type of childhood leukemia have about a 50% higher chance of their disease coming back after treatment than patients who were lean. In our laboratory, we are looking into ways in which fat tissue might interact with leukemia cells, making the disease harder to cure. We are investigating how fat tissue:
• Attracts leukemia cells to migrate closer to fat cells.
• Absorbs and metabolizes some chemotherapy drugs, making them unable to reach the leukemia cells.
• Releases fuels such as amino acids and fatty acids that help leukemia cells survive.
• Secretes substances that signal the leukemia cells, making them more able to resist chemotherapy.
Our overall goals are to unravel the mechanisms responsible for obesity both increasing the chance of getting leukemia and decreasing the chance of surviving leukemia, to develop strategies to block these effects of obesity on cancer, and to use our understanding of body weight regulation to improve the lives of patients with leukemia and other cancers. To attain these goals, our lab performs bench, translational, and clinical research, and collaborates with other groups within and outside the institution.