Hiebert’s Lymphoma Research Gains Support

August 26, 2011 | Dagny Stuart

Scott Hiebert, Ph.D.

Scott Hiebert, Ph.D., associate director of Basic Research at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, has received a grant from the Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation (SWCRF) to study genetic mutations related to B-cell lymphoma.

The grant will help launch Hiebert’s research into the cascade of mutations that lead to B-cell lymphoma. The Max Cure Foundation has agreed to collaborate with the Waxman Foundation in supporting the research.

It is estimated that anywhere between three and 20 mutations are required to change a normal cell into a cancer cell and these mutations may occur in more than a hundred different genes that regulate cell growth. In this complex genetic landscape it is important to know the order in which the mutations occur because one mutation requires another type or class of mutation.

“Cancer cells are like a house of cards, and attacking the first mutation may cause the cards to collapse to kill the cancer without harming normal cells,” said Hiebert, also an Ingram Professor of Cancer Research.

“For this type of the blood cancer B-cell lymphoma, we know that the cancer begins when a gene called B-cell lymphoma 6 (BCL6) is broken and put back together in the wrong manner, which causes BCL6 to be “on” all of the time. BCL6 then recruits the enzyme histone deacetylase 3(Hdac3) to turn genes off. When this series of genes is turned off, more mutations can occur. However, if we could turn those genes back on by eliminating the BCL6 function, we could kill the cancer cells.”

The goal of Hiebert’s research is to attack Hdac3, which is required for BCL6 to turn off genes. If the strategy works, Hiebert and his team would like to move the work into a preclinical model of B-cell lymphoma to provide the rationale for clinical research trials.

Hiebert’s research will be funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) starting in 2012. The Waxman Foundation and Max Cure award will support his work until the NIH funding begins.

The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation is an international organization dedicated to curing and preventing cancer. Since its inception in 1976, the SWCRF has awarded more than $75 million to support the work of more than 175 researchers around the world.

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