Dr. Gondek is a current Evans Fellow at Johns Hopkins University in the Department of Oncology, working with Dr. Amy Dezern on research related to signaling pathways in MDS stem cells. Dr. Gondek explained that the mechanism of progression in MDS is poorly understood, and he hopes through his work to clarify some of the factors that contribute to progression.
He is the Principal Investigator on one pilot project currently underway within the MDS Clinical Research Consortium, working with a particular signaling pathway named the Hedgehog pathway. Dr. Gondek describes the Hedgehog (Hh) pathway was found to be activated during malignant transformation in certain types of cancer, for example pancreatic cancer, multiple myeloma and chronic myeloid leukemia. He and his colleagues postulate that a similar mechanism may be responsible for progression of MDS and certain patients may benefit from Hh pathway inhibition. He hopes to eventually gather enough data to develop the ability to predict which patients will benefit from such therapy. Some questions Dr. Gondek is interested in being able to answer are: Does the Hedgehog pathway play a role in MDS progression? Can the progression be slowed by targeting treatment within this pathway? Can any deceleration in disease progression, be sustained to produce a viable treatment? Using both human bone marrow samples and mouse models, Dr. Gondek is studying the impact of Hh activation on stem cells self-renewal, proliferation, and resistance to chemotherapy. Results of this study may contribute to more accurate predictions about who is likely to benefit from therapy under what circumstances, and over time, lead to clinical trials with less toxic therapies.
Dr. Gondek shared that the opportunity to receive an Evans Fellowship has played a critical role in his ability to keep his research going during lean funding times. The financial support he received assisted with his success in progressing towards junior faculty position in order to continue his research. Also valuable he said, was the opportunity the fellowship allowed him to meet and exchange information with leading senior researchers in his field, which allows him to build future collaborative research relationships.