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Cancer researchers find new targets to alleviate anemia during chemotherapy

Sara Buckallew • 10/8/18
Cancer researchers find new targets to alleviate anemia during chemotherapy

It is not uncommon for patients with cancer to develop anemia based on a number of factors, including the type of cancer they have or stress induced by chemotherapy treatments. Anemia, which is caused by a lack of oxygen-delivering hemoglobin in the red blood cells, can be especially threatening to those with cancer. In addition to exacerbating feelings of weakness and fatigue, patients with both cancer and anemia may experience a delay or reduction in chemotherapy treatment.

While there are successful treatments for anemia, its primary treatment option—known as erythropoietin, or EPO—remains ineffective in a number of anemic disorders. Among these disorders are Diamond Blackfan Anemia and Fanconi Anemia—two pediatric diseases for which there are no current treatments.

Investigators at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center and the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research hope to change that.

In a recent study conducted by Ping Hu, PhD, and supervised in the laboratory of Reuben Kapur, PhD, researchers identified alternative therapeutic strategies to treat anemia during chemotherapy treatment. The group found that the inhibition of an enzyme, known as p38 MAP Kinase, could be an effective target in treating patients with anemia that are EPO resistant, including the two mentioned above.

These breakthrough findings may lead to improved treatment for patients with cancer who aren’t able to receive timely chemotherapy treatments or are required to reduce their treatments due to anemia. Additionally, this discovery could lead to the development of entirely new treatments for children with Fanconi Anemia or Diamond Blackfan Anemia. Ping, Kapur and their investigative teams will continue to pursue studies in these areas.

To learn more about Kapur, Ping and their work, visit the Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Biology research page.


Sara Buckallew

Sara Buckallew works in the IU School of Medicine Dean's Office of Strategic Communication. As Communications Coordinator, Sara supports internal and external communication needs for the Herman B Wells Center for Pediatric Research and the Center for Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases.