Dr. Courtney Jones is a Scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network. Dr. Jones received her doctorate from New York University in 2014 studying mechanisms of therapy resistance in pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. She continued her training as a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. Craig Jordan at the University of Colorado where she studied metabolic properties of leukemia stem cells (LSCs).
Each year over 1,000 people in Canada are diagnosed with the blood cancer acute myeloid leukemia (AML) which is a devastating and fatal disease. To improve outcomes for AML patients, we are developing strategies to target leukemia stem cells.
In leukemia, like many other cancer types, a small subset of cells called cancer stem cells are thought to drive disease initiation, pathogenesis and relapse. Leukemia stem cells (LSCs) arise when normal blood stem cells become damaged. This damage causes these stem cells to generate leukemic cells instead of healthy blood cells. While conventional cytotoxic chemotherapies often reduce the bulk tumour, developing therapeutic strategies to target cancer stem cells has been more challenging. In AML, the most common form of adult acute leukemia, the long-term survival rate is approximately 21%; therefore, therapies designed to eradicate LSCs are urgently needed.
We and others have shown that LSCs have unique metabolism properties compared to healthy stem cells. Our lab studies LSC metabolism with the objective of identifying therapeutic strategies to target LSC-specific metabolic properties resulting in LSC death. For example, we know that LSCs are highly reliant on oxidative phosphorylation for survival. Current efforts in the lab focus on identifying and targeting pathways that regulate oxidative phosphorylation with the overall goal of developing novel therapeutic strategies to target LSC metabolism to improve patient outcomes.