American Association for Cancer Research

Targeting MLL in Acute Myeloid Leukemia


Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a form of cancer in which the normal development of blood cells is blocked and the cells multiply abnormally. AML affects children and adults, with about 12,000 new U.S. patients each year. A substantial portion of AML cases has extremely poor prognosis. Although considerable progress has been made in understanding the causes of AML, the drugs currently used to treat AML are mostly cytotoxins and yield disappointing results with less than 20 percent of AML patients surviving after five years of treatment. The goal of Dou’s research is to identify a whole new class of drugs for AML that specifically targets the tumor initiating cells. Dou believes this is very promising research that, to date, has not been pursued in a highly-focused and coordinated way. Toward this goal she plans to collaborate with other investigators with diverse expertise to develop compounds to target the enzyme that, in humans, is encoded by the mixed-lineage leukemia (MLL) gene. Drug candidates have already been identified, and their therapeutic potential has been shown. The goal of Dou’s proposed research is to further develop these and other drug candidates for AML so that they may be rapidly moved into clinical testing.


Yali Dou, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the department of pathology and holds a joint appointment in the department of biological chemistry at the University of Michigan.


Updated: April 4, 2011