Heme Faculty Retreat Showcases Breadth Of Research

The Duke Division of Hematologic Malignancies and Cellular Therapy held their annual faculty retreat on Friday, Nov. 10, at the JB Duke Hotel on campus. It was an opportunity, said division chief Nelson Chao, MD, MBA, for faculty to share with each other the breadth and depth of ongoing basic and translational research across the different labs and explore where there might be opportunities to team up, with the ultimate goal of trying to get broader research grants to grow the program organically.

"There's so much going on in the division that sometimes it's hard to keep track of what everybody else is doing, and everybody is doing some interesting, exciting stuff," said Chao, to the gathering of about 35 faculty, research fellows and staff. 

Introducing Tiong Ong, MD, PhD, who directs the Duke-NUS MD/PhD Programme Office at Duke-NUS in Singapore, Chao said that one of the other goals of the retreat was to talk about ways to expand collaborations with that institution "on the other side of the world."

"You'll see from his presentation that the science there is incredibly rich and if we could have more ties, I think that both sides would benefit," said Chao.

Research topics presented at the all-day retreat, by 15 faculty, included the microbiome, immunology with T-cells and B-Cells, gold nanostars, graft versus host disease, immunotherapy and the importance of K-cells, and the ability of different diseases to be treated with stem cell transplants. 

Chao noted that the division is fortunate to include a good number of physician-scientists. 

Lindsay Rein, MD, a junior faculty member who presented her team's research on "Targeting Beta-Arrestins in Myeloid Malignancies," said "I never thought I'd be in a basic science lab when I started out in the med school process and it's been awesome."  

Danielle Brander, MD, who spoke on chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) research and treatment, gave a nod to the importance of bridging collaborations both in the clinic and the lab. One of her upcoming projects includes a study of how exercise impacts the immune system function of patients with CLL.

"A lot of the questions that have ended up in the lab came from the clinic," she said. "And when I think of the different spaces that we are fortunate to cross in our work, it's really about understanding the science, the treatments we can offer patients, and some of the clinical questions that come out of that."