Michelle A. Kelliher, PhD, recognized for outstanding work in blood cancer research

August 29, 2008

WORCESTER, Mass. Michelle A. Kelliher, PhD, associate professor of cancer biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, was among five researchers recently named Stohlman Scholars by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). The award recognizes the researchers’ outstanding contributions to the advancement of blood cancer research. 

“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society believes that the work of these exceptional scholars and the more than 400 gifted scientists we are supporting around the world will result in substantial improvement in the lives of patients afflicted with leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma,” said Louis DeGennaro, PhD, LLS chief scientific officer. “The work being done by these gifted researchers shows great promise in advancing new and improved treatments for blood cancer patients.”

The Stohlman Scholars are LLS grant recipients are exceptional investigators who have demonstrated their ability to conduct high quality original research bearing on leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma and are in the final year of their five-year research grant periods. These Scholars hold faculty-level or equivalent positions at major research institutions. 

Dr. Kelliher’s research is focused on T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL), a form of pediatric blood cancer that still has a very poor prognosis. She has studied how the oncogenes TAL1 and NOTCH1 cooperate to cause T-ALL. Kelliher and colleagues recently discovered that NOTCH1 contributes to leukemia by directly inducing expression of the gene C-MYC. Her laboratory also recently demonstrated that NOTCH inhibitors extend the survival of leukemic mice, suggesting that these drugs may prove effective in T-ALL patients.  

"Outcomes for children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia have improved dramatically in the past few decades—to approximately 75 percent—but that 25 percent, many of whom have T-ALL, are not being cured," said Dr. Kelliher. "We are hopeful that our research will lead to more successful treatment of these children."

Dr. Kelliher said the Society's support was fundamental in moving her research forward. "I am truly grateful to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for having confidence in our work and providing our group with this funding," she said. "I am optimistic that our efforts will improve the outcomes for leukemia patients."

In 2000, the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research also recognized Kelliher by naming her a Cancer Scholar for her research on how TAL-1 gene contributes to the development of leukemia. The Cancer Scholar award supports outstanding young investigators in all cancer fields and is presented to 10 accomplished researchers each year.

Other Stohlman Scholars include: Martin Carroll, MD, associate professor of the Department of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania; Craig T. Jordan, PhD, associate professor of the Department of Medicine at the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, University of Rochester School of Medicine; Danesh Moazed, PhD, professor of the Department of Cell Biology at Harvard Medical School; and Michael Teitell, MD, PhD, professor of the Departments of Pathology and Pediatrics at the University of California, Los Angeles. 

The Stohlman Scholars are named in memory of Frederick Stohlman Jr., MD, a major figure in stem cell physiology and blood cell cancer research. The honors will be officially announced at the LLS Stohlman Scholar Scientific Symposium, which will be held Nov. 6 and 7, in Kansas City, Mo.


About the University of Massachusetts Medical School
The University of Massachusetts Medical School, one of the fastest growing academic health centers in the country, has built a reputation as a world-class research institution, consistently producing noteworthy advances in clinical and basic research.  The Medical School attracts more than $179 million in research funding annually, 80 percent of which comes from federal funding sources. The work of UMMS researcher Craig Mello, PhD, an investigator of the prestigious Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI), and his colleague Andrew Fire, PhD, then of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, toward the discovery of RNA interference was awarded the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and has spawned a new and promising field of research, the global impact of which may prove astounding. UMMS is the academic partner of UMass Memorial Health Care, the largest health care provider in Central Massachusetts. For more information, visit

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, headquartered in White Plains, NY, with 68 chapters in the United States and Canada, is the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services. The LLS mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Since its founding in 1949, LLS has invested more than $600 million in research specifically targeting leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Last year alone, LLS made 5.1 million contacts with patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals. For more information about blood cancer, visit or call the LLS Information Resource Center (IRC), a call center staffed by master's level social workers, nurses and health educators who provide information, support and resources to patients and their families and caregivers. IRC information specialists are available at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.


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