…and they end up funding a young physician-scientist working on myeloproliferative neoplasms. Had you heard that one before? No? Well, this guy just landed the Doris Duke-Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator award for 2014, and he’s worth knowing about.
Stephen T. Oh is at most 40. He smiles like a gopher when he gets his picture taken, but don’t let that fool you: He’s brilliant. He got an AB in Biochemical Sciences from Harvard, where he graduated cum laude, and then went on to get his MD-PhD in Cancer Biology at the Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Now, he’s busily homing in on a particularly deadly group of little-understood blood cancers.
We wrote about acute myeloid leukemia (AML), and St. Baldrick’s $17.2 million gift to support precision medicine approaches to the disease, last month. And while AML is bad, these myeloproliferative neoplasms Dr. Oh is working on are like its evil cousin. Like the Chucky of blood cancers.
In a particularly nasty ailment called myelofibrosis, the cancer cells proliferate out of control, replacing bone marrow with scar tissue and shutting down blood cell function. Patients usually die within five years. And to make things worse, myeloproliferative neoplasms can evolve into secondary acute myeloid leukemia. There’s no cure for any of this mess—just feeble JAK2 protein inhibitors to slow it down. But Dr. Oh, who conducts his research at Washington University, is determined to understand the cell abnormalities that lead to these cancers.
His research is a perfect match for the priorities of both the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s cancer grantmaking. For starters, it’s out-there and risky, and that’s what Damon Runyon likes to see. And it has the potential to save lives, change the world etc., also DRCRF priorities. And Dr. Oh is young and brilliant, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation likes to woo brilliant young minds into independent research.