Our research goals are to investigate why the blood stem cells from patients who inherit a loss-of-function mutation in one of the genes of the Fanconi anemia pathway are highly susceptible to cell death yet also highly susceptible to conversion into myelodysplasia and acute leukemia. We have defined at the molecular level that one determinant is abnormal - Wnt/beta-catenin signaling, a pathway that normally controls the quantity and quality of blood stem cells during the lifespan of an individual. We recently published this work (Dao, KT et al. FANCL ubiquitinates beta-catenin and enhances its nuclear function. Blood. 2012 May 31). We hope that with our continued effort we will identify markers that predict prognosis or identify Wnt/beta-catenin pathway targets that may be manipulated to improve the function of blood stem cells in Fanconi anemia disease and in acquired bone marrow failure, and therefore, prevent conversion into myelodysplasia and acute leukemia.
Dr. Kim-Hien Dao received her post-doctoral internal medicine training at Scripps Mercy Hospital in San Diego, California, and hematology/oncology fellowship training at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Dao started her position as an assistant professor in the Division of Hematology & Oncology, Center for Hematologic Malignancies, at OHSU in the fall of 2009. She is a member of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. She sees patients who have damage to the blood-forming cells in their bone marrow (myelodysplastic syndrome) or myelodysplastic syndrome that has transformed into acute myelogenous leukemia. She works with other scientists on several clinical trials (research studies), and plans to start her own clinical trials of new treatments for patients with myelodysplastic syndromes that are very likely to become leukemia. She spends much of her day in the laboratory, studying how blood diseases become leukemia. Dr. Dao hopes her research will help develop treatments to stop the development of leukemia.