Public Release:  ASH awards Timothy J. Ley, M.D., with 2012 E. Donnall Thomas Lecture and Prize

American Society of Hematology

Dr. Ley will present his lecture, "The AML Genome," at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, December 10, 2012, at the 54th ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition in Atlanta. His lecture will explore the use of whole genome sequencing in AML, which has offered an unprecedented view of the mutations that cause this disease. His lecture will also focus on next-generation DNA sequencing approaches in AML that are providing detailed information about the clonal architecture of AML at presentation and its evolution at relapse, as well as new clues regarding the genetic underpinnings of drug resistance and disease progression.

Dr. Ley has played a pivotal role in advancing the translational field of cancer genomics, specifically relating to hematologic malignancies, as he has spent his career studying stem cell, T-cell, and leukemic genetics and biology. At Washington University, he holds the Lewis T. and Rosalind B. Apple Chair in Oncology, serves as chief of the Section of Stem Cell Biology in the Division of Oncology, and is Professor of Medicine and Genetics. Dr. Ley also serves as associate director of The Genome Institute (for Cancer Genomics) and directs the Embryonic Stem Cell Core at Washington University's Siteman Cancer Center.

In collaboration with Drs. Richard Wilson and Elaine Mardis at the Genome Institute at Washington University, Dr. Ley and colleagues were the first to sequence a cancer genome (from a patient with AML), and their investigations have provided important new insights into the origin and evolution of AML mutations. These findings have introduced a new, unbiased method for discovering cancer-initiated mutations in previously unidentified genes that may respond to targeted therapies. By highlighting the diversity of mutations in AML, Dr. Ley's breakthrough work in cancer genomics has demonstrated that most AML mutations are benign, background events that arise in hematopoietic stem cells as a function of aging, and that only a handful of mutations contribute to pathogenesis in each case.

Dr. Ley is also responsible for creating the first mouse model of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL), a subtype of AML, and his group was the first to sequence a mouse cancer genome, using this model of leukemia. The model demonstrated that APL is caused by an initiating event that requires cooperating mutations to cause the disease, and it has provided key insights into the molecular mechanisms of this disorder in humans, since many of the cooperating mutations are conserved between species.

"The Society is honored to present this award to Dr. Ley for his many contributions to hematology and genetics, especially within the exciting field of genome sequencing," said ASH President Armand Keating, MD, of Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. "Through his identification of the genetics of leukemia development and relapse, Dr. Ley has discovered new pathways for targeted and individualized cancer therapies, which will help countless patients who suffer from blood cancers around the world."

Dr. Ley holds many prestigious awards and honors from ASH and other organizations. In addition to receiving the 2008 ASH Mentor Award in Basic Science and serving as a past chair of the ASH Committee on Scientific Affairs, Dr. Ley is the recipient of a National Institutes of Health (NIH) Merit Award. He currently serves as chair of NIH's National Human Genome Research Institute Board of Scientific Counselors and is also a past president of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the Institute of Medicine.

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