In the framework of this year’s competition round for outstanding researchers, the European Research Council (ERC) has elected to support Dr. Hind Medyouf and her newly established group “Bone Marrow Microenvironment and Leukemia” with a €1.5 million grant. The money is provided as a Starting Grant to support the young scientist in her studies addressing the role of the bone marrow microenvironment in blood cancers and predisposition syndromes.
The funded project will particularly focus on a heterogeneous group of stem cell driven pre-leukemic syndromes mainly affecting the elderly, referred to as myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS). Patients with MDS suffer from ineffective production of mature blood cells and require frequent blood transfusions, a treatment that often results in significant complications (e.g. iron overload). The only potential curative treatment for MDS is hematopoietic stem cells transplantation, which is limited to younger patients with suitable donors (<10% of MDS patients).
The project will use an integrative approach to functionally and molecularly decipher the complex interplay that Dr. Medyouf recently uncovered between MDS hematopoietic cells and the surrounding stromal cells that constitute the bone marrow microenvironment or “niche”. Because of the pivotal role of niche cells in the control of stem cell function, targeting the interactions between niche and diseased hematopoietic stem cells represents a particularly attractive opportunity to eradicate diseased-stem cells through the manipulation of their niche support. Importantly, these future niche-mediated therapies may also potentially be exploited to improve the regenerative abilities of the bone marrow niche to promote hematopoietic reconstitution following stem cell transplantation.
The overarching goal of the proposal is to contribute to understanding the biology underlying hematologic malignancies and translate the findings into novel therapeutic strategies in order to improve the quality of life and survival of patients with blood cancers.
"We are obviously thrilled by this news and extremely honored to receive this prestigious award” says Dr. Medyouf. "The grant will be used to support new positions for young researchers in our lab and offer them an excellent environment to achieve their research goals.”
Dr. Medyouf received her PhD in “Biology and Biotechnology” from the Paris VII University (France). Her PhD studies revealed the critical role of the Calcineurin/NFAT signaling pathway in pediatric T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL) (Nature Medicine, 2007). In 2008, she became an HFSP (Human Frontier Science Program) post-doctoral fellow at the Terry Fox Laboratory (Vancouver, Canada) where she demonstrated the prominent role of the IGF/PI3K/AKT signaling axis in T-cell leukemia maintenance (JEM, 2011; Blood, 2010). In 2010, she obtained an EMBO fellowship and moved to the German Cancer Research Centre (Heidelberg, Germany) to study the role of the microenvironment in myelodysplastic syndromes (Cell Stem Cell, 2014). She is currently a group leader at the Georg Speyer Haus and a holder of a José Carreras Career Award.
Dr. Hind Medyouf
Georg-Speyer-Haus, Institute for Tumor Biology and Experimental Therapy