University of Southern California
USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center

Leukemia and Lymphoma Program

The scientific focus of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Program is to investigate the pathogenesis, epidemiology and optimal therapy of patients with hematologic and viral-associated malignancies.

These two areas first came together in the early 1980s when USC Norris scientists began to study AIDS-related malignancies. The program then expanded to include HTLV I-related lymphoma/leukemia. Recently, the program has expanded to include lymphoma associated with hepatitis C.

USC Norris researchers' work in AIDS-related Kaposi's sarcoma led to a greater focus on the role of angiogenesis and vascular biology in malignant disease, as well as the development and testing of angiogenesis inhibitors as a means of therapy. The newly developed vascular biology program has provided a mechanism for strong inter-programmatic collaboration, with receipt of cancer center seed funding (from the Whittier Initiative) for a translational Phase I clinical trial of an anti-sense oligonucleotide against VEGF, which was developed within our program.

The program's collaborations with the Pediatric Oncology Division at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles also have been strengthened by the USC Norris, allowing researchers to work together on translational research studies, such as a Phase I study of fenretinide (N-[4-hydroxyphenyl] retinamide) in patients with hematologic malignancies, again with initial seed funding from the cancer center. The program's ongoing collaborations with the Cancer Epidemiology and Cancer Control Research Programs have led to NCI/NIH grants that further expand inter- and intra-programmatic research.

Specific aims include these:

  • Investigate the pathogenesis, epidemiology and therapy of hematologic malignancies.
  • Study the roles of vascular biology and angiogenesis in the development of hematologic and viral associated malignancies, and develop inhibitors of angiogenesis for future therapy.
  • Define the molecular mechanisms of hepatitis C-related lymphoma and ascertain the role of treating HCV as a means of treatment.
  • Study the pathogenesis and therapy of HIV-related cancers.

The program has 26 members from eight different academic departments in the Keck School of Medicine of USC. They also participate in seven other USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center programs.