Fox Chase Researcher Awarded American Society of Hematology’s Research Training Award for Fellows

Dr .Small
Sara Small, MD, PhD, has received a Research Training Award for Fellows from the American Society of Hematology.

PHILADELPHIA (September 12, 2023)—Sara Small, MD, PhD, an Assistant Professor in the Department of Bone Marrow Transplant and Cellular Therapies at Fox Chase Cancer Center, has received a Research Training Award for Fellows from the American Society of Hematology (ASH).

“With this award, I’ll be conducting research on potential biomarkers for acute myeloid leukemia, which is a devastating disease even though there have been many advances in the last few years,” said Small, who joined Fox Chase in August after completing a fellowship in hematology/oncology in the Department of Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She was one of 17 fellows to receive the award.

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a cancer that develops in the blood cells of bone marrow and affects more than 20,000 adults in the United States each year. More than 70% of patients diagnosed with AML succumb to the disease within five years.

“For patients who have disease that’s especially difficult to treat, which is a lot of patients with AML, this research could potentially lead to clinical trials that will allow us to better identify which patients will respond to intensive chemotherapy and which ones will not,” said Small.

Historically, AML has been treated with intensive chemotherapy, such as cytarabine and daunorubicin, followed by a higher dose of cytarabine. In many cases, however, patients either do not respond to the drugs or eventually develop resistance to them.

Small’s work involves studying expression of the gene Schlafen-11 (SLFN11), which, when lost, allows cancer cells to proliferate even with chemotherapy treatment. She will be examining SLFN11-low-expressing AML cells to study how chemotherapy resistance occurs and discover new strategies for the treatment of chemotherapy-resistant disease.

“We want to see if we can potentially use this gene as a biomarker in AML and if we can use it to find new sensitivities of the leukemia to different treatments,” said Small.

The Research Training Award for Fellows is designed to encourage junior researchers in hematology, hematology/oncology, and other hematology-related training programs to pursue careers in academic hematology. It provides each recipient with $70,000 for a one-year period to guarantee protected time for clinical, basic, or translational research.

“I’m very appreciative of my mentors at Northwestern and of the American Society of Hematology for allowing me to conduct this study. I’m looking forward to continuing this research as an Assistant Professor at Fox Chase,” said Small.

Fox Chase Cancer Center (Fox Chase), which includes the Institute for Cancer Research and the American Oncologic Hospital and is a part of Temple Health, is one of the leading comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase is also one of just 10 members of the Alliance of Dedicated Cancer Centers. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence six consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach. It is the policy of Fox Chase Cancer Center that there shall be no exclusion from, or participation in, and no one denied the benefits of, the delivery of quality medical care on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity/expression, disability, age, ancestry, color, national origin, physical ability, level of education, or source of payment.

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