2021 AACR Innovation Grant to Further Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
The 2021 AACR Innovation Grant to Further Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion award has been established to support the development of highly talented cancer researchers from under-represented groups (as per NIH guidelines). Eligibility is limited to members of racial or ethnic groups that have been shown to be underrepresented in the cancer related sciences.
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a disease of blocked differentiation in which blasts fail to mature and proliferate continuously. Differentiation therapy, which aims to reactivate latent maturation programs and induce cell cycle exit, is curative in the promyelocytic (APL) AML subtype but not in other AML subtypes. Recently, Dr. Blanco’s laboratory identified the histone acetyltransferase KAT6A as a novel driver of differentiation arrest in non-APL AML. KAT6A is actionable and a small molecule inhibitor (WM-1119) has recently been developed. The goal of Dr Blanco’s funded project is to evaluate whether targeting of KAT6A represents a high potential strategy for non-APL AML differentiation therapy. His group will first test the in vivo therapeutic efficacy of WM-119 in AML mouse models. He will then determine the responsiveness of clinical patient samples from diverse AML subtypes to WM-1119 using ex vivo assays for self-renewal, proliferation, and myeloid transcriptional programs.
Dr. Blanco received his BA from Cornell University where he double majored in biological sciences and philosophy. He then received his PhD in molecular biology from Princeton University where he studied the molecular basis of cancer metastasis in the laboratory of Yibin Kang. Dr. Blanco then conducted his postdoctoral research at Harvard Medical School and Children’s Hospital Boston in the laboratory of Yang Shi. His postdoctoral research focused on the role of chromatin modifications in cell fate regulation. In 2018, Dr. Blanco started his laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania where his group studies the epigenetic regulation of cancer cell fate decisions.
Acknowledgment of Support
This award will provide critical support for my lab’s research on the role of the gene KAT6A in driving differentiation arrest in acute myeloid leukemia. This support will allow us to make rapid progress on this project and generate data that will make it highly competitive for federal grant funding.