Sidney Kimmel Foundation Awards Grant to Siteman Member

Stephen Oh
Stephen Oh, MD, PhD

June 22, 2011 – The Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research has awarded Siteman Cancer Center member Stephen Oh, MD, PhD, a $200,000 grant for his research on a novel genetic mutation in myeloproliferative neoplasms, or MPNs.

Oh, assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology at Washington University, is one of 15 young cancer researchers chosen to receive the award. The foundation selects scientists who demonstrate promise and innovation in their work but who have not progressed to the point of receiving major grants.

MPNs are blood cancers that originate in the bone marrow and cause an abnormal increase in the number of blood cells. Currently available treatment options for affected patients are limited, highlighting the need for more effective therapies. These hyperproliferative disorders are typically driven by defects in the JAK-STAT signaling pathway, including mutations in the JAK2 gene.

“Targeted inhibitors of JAK2 are currently in clinical trials for MPNs, and early results have been promising,” Oh says.  “However, many MPN patients lack JAK2 mutations, and the genetic basis for these MPNs has largely been unexplained.”

Oh and his colleagues recently discovered novel mutations in a gene called LNK in a subset of MPN patients. According to Oh, these findings represent a new genetic paradigm in MPN pathogenesis. 

“Activating mutations in JAK2 are analogous to an accelerator being stuck in a car,” Oh says. “LNK is a negative regulator of JAK-STAT signaling and growth, so these mutations are akin to having defective brakes.” 

The goal of Oh’s research is to determine how LNK mutations contribute to the development of MPNs.

“I am very grateful to receive this award from the Sidney Kimmel Foundation,” Oh says.  “The funding will enable me to carry out these important studies. Ultimately, the goal is for this work to lead to improved therapies for MPN patients.”