Doha – January 23, 2023: A Qatari medical student at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) has presented research into a rare and incurable form of blood cancer at the 64th American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting and Exposition, which took place in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Second-year medical student Haya Al Ansari gave a presentation about a clinical research trial she worked on with a team of doctors from Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. The trial investigated the efficacy of two existing drugs that could help in the treatment of mantle cell lymphoma, which remains incurable. Al Ansari presented to more than 4,000 delegates from different parts of the world at the event.
While mantle cell lymphoma can be treated with a number of drugs and put into remission, it cannot be cured fully because drug resistance develops and the cancer returns. The study, titled ‘Combined Inhibition of CDK2 and BCL2 Overrides Resistance to Targeting BTK and CDK4/6 in Mantle Cell Lymphoma Therapy,’ notes: “Each successive treatment failure is associated with a more rapidly proliferating disease and fewer treatment options. Understanding the drug-resistance mechanism and developing effective, well-tolerated, new therapies for MCL are urgently needed.”
The trial used genomic analysis of tissue and blood samples from patients being treated for mantle cell lymphoma to determine that the two drugs – named venetoclax and ibrutinib – were more effective when used in combination than separately. Both drugs are already approved for treatment of mantle cell lymphoma but are typically administered in succession rather than in combination.
Al Ansari, who was first author of the study, worked on the paper with Dr. Selina Chen-Kiang, professor of microbiology and immunology, Dr. Maurizio Di Liberto, assistant professor of research in pathology and laboratory medicine, Dr. Xiangao Huang, assistant professor of research in pathology and laboratory medicine, and Dr Yang Hu, bioinformatics analyst, all of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York (WCM NY), among other investigators from WCM NY and a number of US colleges. Al Ansari was also presented with the 2022 ASH Abstract Achievement Award, which is bestowed upon trainees who are the first author and presenter of a high-scoring abstract at the annual conference.
Al Ansari’s participation began when she met one of her mentors, Dr. Chen-Kiang, during her Medical Student Research Award (MSRA) program at WCM NY last year. MSRA is an initiative designed for WCM-Q first-year medical students, providing them a chance to take the lead in securing their own research experiences between the first and second year of the medical program during the summer break.
Al Ansari said: “Mantle cell lymphoma is very rare and hard to treat, and patients usually end up relapsing because medications do not work in the long-term. The presentation showed two drugs that target the disease and could avoid resistance more effectively when used in combination. I was very happy and grateful that Dr. Chen-Kiang gave me the honor of being a presenter and first author of the abstract paper.”
Dr. Nayef Mazloum, assistant dean for student research and assistant professor of microbiology & immunology at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar, said: “It is extremely gratifying that our student Haya Al Ansari has not only participated in this important piece of research but has also presented it at a major conference.”