A UWindsor biologist’s research into fighting life-threatening infection aims to give new hope to leukemia patients receiving bone marrow transplants.
Munir Rahim is investigating how to boost natural defences to cytomegalovirus. The virus, which as much as 90 per cent of the world’s population carries with no symptoms, can be deadly for people with compromised immune systems. Leukemia patients who have had bone marrow transplants are compromised because their own bone marrow is damaged by the disease and the anti-rejection drugs given to them suppress their natural immunities.
Dr. Rahim has partnered with local oncologist Caroline Hamm. Dr. Hamm runs clinical trials and handles an average of 70 patients who have had bone marrow transplants.
“We are hopeful that this research work will have a meaningful impact on individual and community health,” Rahim said.
For the project, Rahim will analyze blood samples from bone marrow transplant patients treated at the Windsor Regional Cancer Centre. He will be looking to identify a subset of natural killer cells in our bodies that seek out and eliminate cells infected with cytomegalovirus.
“Harnessing the protective power of these cells could improve treatment outcomes in these patients,” he said.
The one-year research project is funded through Seeds4Hope, the Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation’s annual grant program. It’s among three UWindsor cancer studies being funded this year.
Additional funding, to pay for a graduate student to help with the research, will come from the Katelyn Bedard Bone Marrow Association.
“This project will build on and strengthen ongoing collaborative efforts between researchers and clinicians in the Windsor-Essex region,” Rahim said.
“We believe that findings from this study could have a direct impact on patient care and recovery of bone marrow transplant leukemia patients in the region.”
─ Sarah Sacheli