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Pachynski, Choi receive research scholar awards

American Cancer Society supports oncology projects

September 8, 2023

Russell Pachynski, MD, and Jaebok Choi, PhD, both of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, have received Research Scholar Grants from the American Cancer Society to support their research in oncology. Both investigators are research members of Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine. Pachynski also treats patients and conducts clinical trials at Siteman.

Pachynski, an associate professor of medicine, received the award to support research into the role of a protein called chemerin in prostate cancer. His work has shown that chemerin levels are reduced in multiple cancers, including melanoma, breast and prostate. In Pachynski’s preclinical models, chemerin recruits immune cells (called leukocytes) and significantly slows tumor growth. The goal is to develop an immunotherapy that boosts leukocyte movement to tumor sites. To this end, Pachynski recently was awarded a patent on a tumor-targeted chemerin-based therapeutic that could treat multiple cancer types.

Choi, an assistant professor of medicine, received the award to support research into the drug baricitinib — part of a class of drugs called JAK1/2 inhibitors — for patients who have received stem cell transplants to treat leukemia. Such transplants can treat leukemia effectively, but in some patients, the transplanted cells can attack the patient’s healthy tissues, a complication called graft-versus-host-disease. The goal of the research is to define the roles of a protein called PKN1 in graft-versus-host disease and the anti-leukemia effects of stem cell transplants. The work could lead to novel therapeutics targeting PKN1, in addition to JAK1/2, to block graft-versus-host disease while maintaining the anti-tumor effect of the stem cell transplant.