CCF Researcher Spotlight: Rizwan Romee, MD


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RIZWAN ROMEE, MD


Assistant Professor of Medicine & Clinical Director,
Haploidentical Transplant Program

Washington University in St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri

Acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, is the most common type of acute blood cancer in the adult population and can be very difficult to treat. Advances in AML treatment have been slow; however, thanks to recent advances by many researchers, including Rizwan Romee, MD, things are beginning to change.

Dr. Romee is Assistant Professor of Medicine and Clinical Director of the Haploidentical Transplant Program at Washington University in St. Louis. In 2015, he received a Conquer Cancer Foundation (CCF) Career Development Award to investigate an immunotherapy for the treatment of AML. The results of his study offer new hope for patients with AML and other advanced blood cancers.

“We saw very promising results,” said Dr. Romee. “About half of our patients entered what we call complete remission—despite the fact that they had already failed several lines of chemotherapy.”

How were Dr. Romee and his team able to achieve this? Specifically, the research team mobilized immune cells called memory-like natural killer (NK) cells to identify and destroy the cancer.

“I spent several years studying these NK cells,” explained Dr. Romee. “We all have them, and they are important in fighting infection and in preventing and fighting cancer in our bodies.”

Dr. Romee published his team’s findings in Science Translational Medicine in September 2016.1 Because of the encouraging results, he was able to secure funding from the National Institutes of Health for a phase II clinical trial, testing the treatment in even more patients. Better yet, he and his team are exploring applying the treatment in other areas, including pediatrics and other cancers.

“Most of us and our family members will be affected by cancer at some point in our lives,” said Dr. Romee. “It’s important for all of us to put our best effort forward to find new cures.”

“Grants like the Career Development Award go a long way toward helping young investigators like me develop new treatments for patients who otherwise wouldn’t survive,” said Dr. Romee. “The money invested by CCF donors directly affects patients with cancer and gives hope to so many people.” ■

Reference

1. Romee R, et al: Cytokine-induced memory-like natural killer cells exhibit enhanced responses against myeloid leukemia. Sci Trans Med 357: ra123, 2016

Originally featured by the Conquer Cancer Foundation. ©American Society of Clinical Oncology. “Dr. Rizwan Romee.” www.CONQUER.org. All rights reserved.



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