Our focus ...

Dr. Hassane's laboratory pushes the power of genomics, including pharmacogenomicsTechnologies that enable an understanding of how genetic variation predicts response to therapy. We extend this general definition to include how transcriptional responses predict both drug response and the modulation of drug response. and genome sequencing, to develop new ways of improving cancer treatment by understanding and modulating the genes and gene networks that drive cancer and its response to drugs.

With a major focus on leukemiaA cancer in which blood cells accumulate or grow abnormally and fail to produce functional mature blood cells., we combine laboratory experiments and state-of-the-art genome analytics to address the critical challenges in cancer: overcoming drug resistance, preventing relapseThe re-emergence of cancer following treatment. With acute myeloid leukemia, relapse often occurs within 8 months!, avoiding secondary malignanciesA cancer or "pre-cancer" such as leukemia or myelodysplastic syndrome arising as a result of the treatment another type of cancer., and ablating cancer stem cellsA subpopulation of cells within cancer that resist chemotherapy and can regenerate the tumor..

Our efforts aim to help patients by:
- Developing better drugs and drug combinations that target cancer stem cells.
- Helping physicians make better decisions about what therapies are best for individual patients.

Our accomplishments ...

Dr. Hassane's research has resulted in the discovery of several pre-clinical compounds that demonstrate the ability to target cancer stem cells in leukemia. Cancer treatments can often appear to be effective only to subsequently resist therapy, produce metastasesPlural of "metastasis". The process by which a tumor spreads from its site of origin to different site. For example, prostate cancer originates in the prostate but can spread and invade the bone., and/or relapseThe re-emergence of cancer following treatment. With acute myeloid leukemia, relapse often occurs within 8 months!. A major reason for the persistence of cancer is thought to be cancer stem cells, which can survive chemotherapy and regrow the tumor. We have taken several genomic strategies to define new therapeutic approaches that destroy cancer stem cells. By forming detailed molecular portraits of the genes that are perturbed in response to known anti-cancer stem cell agents, we have been able to find new structurally unrelated drugs that also destroy cancer stem cells and to rationally design new combination therapies that make existing drugs more effective. In addition, we have shown that aberrant gene programs in cancer stem cells discovered through cancer genomics can serve as a drug discovery tool by computationally searching for drugs that suppress deregulated gene networks in leukemia.

Our direction ...

We are continuing to push forward with our drug and target discovery efforts in leukemia using genomic strategies with special focus on destroying cancer stem cells. The recent advances made in genome sequencing technology allow us to gain unprecedented insight into how cancer works. Focusing on leukemia, the types of questions being asked are "what special properties make cancer stem cells especially lethal?" and "how can we use genomics to limit their lethality?". Of further interest, we know that patients who achieve long-term remissions in cancers such as breast cancer can develop new malignancies years later (secondary malignancyA cancer or "pre-cancer" such as leukemia or myelodysplastic syndrome arising as a result of the treatment another type of cancer.). We are highly interested in using genomics to guide the development of therapeutic regimens that prevent these new cancers from occurring by understanding how chemotherapy promotes the formation of cancer stem cells. At Weill Cornell Medical College, we have formed collaborations with leading physicians and researchers to produce genome-scale portraits of how cancer therapeutics affect the behavior, survival, and gene regulatory networks in cancer stem cells.

What you can do to help ...

The generosity of donors is important for funding our research. If you would like to contribute or learn more about this research program, please contact Dr. Duane Hassane. Weill Cornell Medical College is a tax-exempt organization under Section 501 (C)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.