Heading 1

To provide financial support to Vermont, New York, and California families enduring pediatric cancer.
To promote the implementation of creative writing in schools.

Emily M Lyman Foundation

An Update from the Emily M Lyman Pediatric Leukemia Research Fund

Dear Monica and the Emily M. Lyman Foundation;      

I am writing to provide an update on the research progress that has been made in our laboratory on projects that are partially funded by the Emily M Lyman Pediatric Leukemia Research Fund here at the University of Vermont. We have used this funding in multiple ways this past year. First, we were able to continue providing partial support for Dr. Heath’s graduate student, Jamie Deutsch. Jamie is a talented and enthusiastic student in the Cellular, Molecular, and Biomedical Sciences graduate program. She is studying the role of AF10 in aggressive pediatric leukemias. AF10 is a protein that is involved in the regulation of protein production at the genetic level, and interacts with the Wnt signaling system, an important system in blood and leukemia cells. AF10 is abnormally joined with other proteins (through chromosomal translocation) in several aggressive childhood leukemias, and Jamie is studying how these fusions disrupt normal Wnt signaling. We hope that by understanding how AF10 and Wnt signaling are disturbed in leukemia, we can find new treatments for leukemias that contain AF10 translocations.

The second project that has been supported by the Emily M Lyman Pediatric Leukemia Research Fund is focused on cells with a translocation specifically between AF10 and a protein called CALM. We have identified that this CALM-AF10 translocation seems to change the adhesive properties of the leukemia cell. While previously underappreciated, these properties are now thought to contribute to chemotherapy resistance. We have identified two proteins (CXCR4 and ITGA4) that are critical for cell adhesion, and are increased by the presence of CALM-AF10. We have focused on CXCR4 and have made some exciting discoveries about the role of CALM-AF10 in mediating the leukemia cell’s interaction with cells in the bone marrow environment. We are studying whether drugs that inhibit CXCR4 can be combined with chemotherapy in the treatment of leukemia. My technician - a talented young scientist - has done an enormous amount of work on this project, and has benefitted greatly from her involvement in these studies. She is now applying for graduate school. This project will soon be ready for publication.
Finally, we have been studying how genetic mutations in leukemia cells change the proteins marking DNA, and learning how those changes relate back to normal blood cell precursors. These studies provide information at a more basic level, which will help us understand the relationship between leukemia cells and normal blood cell precursors, and may eventually provide us with information that can help inform treatment regimens. This work is being submitted for publication this week in the British Journal of Hematology.

We are very excited about all of these projects, and the progress that has been made in a relatively short time. We are incredibly grateful to the Emily M. Lyman Foundation and all your donors for your support of this science and of these young scientists. By funding projects that support the development of junior scientists, you are not only advancing the science aimed at identifying new treatments, but you are also supporting the next generation of scientists and supporting the future of this work.


Jessica L. Heath, MD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics & Biochemistry
University of Vermont
Vermont Children’s Hospital Vermont Cancer Center (802) 656-5008

The Emily M Lyman Foundation hopes to gives both intellectual and spiritual light, through writing workshops, author's visits, and Emily's many wonderful  writing pieces.
The Emily M Lyman Foundation strives to make the lives of families coping with pediatric cancer more cheerful and bright through monetary contributions.
Emily enlightend our world with her intellectual curiosity and her positive outlook on life. She had an impact on everyone she met. Her determination and insight were contagious. We continue to learn from her.