UH Cancer Center Excellence in Research Award

Wei Jia
Wei Jia, PhD

Wei Jia, a professor and associate director leading the UH Cancer Center’s Shared Resources Program, won the first quarterly Excellence in Research Award in October 2014 for his team’s work on metabolic biomarkers for a particular form of leukemia. The panel of six biomarkers studied by the team has the potential to become a test that could eventually help increase a patient’s chances of survival.

Their paper, “A distinct glucose metabolism signature of acute myeloid leukemia with prognostic value,” was published in the September 4, 2014 issue of the journal Blood.

Jia and his colleagues identified a panel of six biomarkers involved in glucose metabolism (breakdown) in patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. AML patients are identified by three groups associated with variable disease outcomes—favorable, intermediate, and unfavorable. While the favorable and unfavorable groups demonstrate clear prognoses (anticipated
course of disease), the outcome of the intermediate group is not as straightforward, making it challenging for clinicians to treat patients with the most effective drug options.

The biomarkers studied by Jia and his team are byproducts of glucose metabolism in AML cells and most of them are elevated. Jia and colleagues found that about half of the patients studied in the intermediate prognosis group had a low prognosis risk score (PRS) that they created, suggesting
that these patients will have poor survival in the intermediate prognosis group.

Jia explains, “It would be valuable to patients for their physicians to be able to use these molecular biomarkers to determine prognosis.” These findings have the potential to help increase patient survival outcomes and create more targeted treatment plans.

Sponsored by the Friends of the UH Cancer Center, the Excellence in Research Award recognizes significant scientific publications on research conducted by Cancer Center faculty. Papers submitted for the award are reviewed and selected by a Cancer Center panel of experts. The award comes with a $4,500 cash prize, of which at least 80 percent must be put back into research.

Among the criteria for the selection of the winning publication are how well the research advances the particular field of study, and how it supports the overall mission of the UH Cancer Center.

Source: A UH Cancer Center publication, “Innovations,” — Spring 2015 issue