Alexandra Stevens, MD, PhD

Baylor College of Medicine

Predicting Atovaquone-Induced Apoptosis in Pediatric AML

Only about half the children who develop acute myelogenous leukemia will survive. A physician scientist, Dr. Stevens has identified an antibiotic that is extremely effective in the laboratory at killing AML or slowing it’s progression. With her Powered by Pablove funds, Dr. Steven will try and identify which children will derive the most benefit from including this antibiotic in their treatment plan.

In Dr. Stevens’ own words: 

A common type of childhood cancer, acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), affects approximately 500 U.S. children annually, and only about half survive. The best available therapies use such high doses of chemotherapy that nearly 5% of children die from side effects of the treatment itself. Thus, in order to improve cure rates for these children, it is crucial to identify new drugs that will kill the cancer but will be well tolerated with few additional side effects. We have shown that an antibiotic called atovaquone is extremely effective in the laboratory at killing AML. Further, laboratory mice that have human AML have slowed disease progression when they receive treatment with atovaquone. This is extremely exciting as atovaquone has been in use for many years, has very few side effects, and is available in a liquid form allowing easy dosing even for small children. Importantly, atovaquone can be used to prevent at type of pneumonia called PJP that all individuals with AML are at risk of getting. This provides a unique opportunity to use atovaquone for dual purposes – both for anti-PJP effect and for anti-leukemia effect. Indeed, a review of adults with AML who have received atovaquone for PJP prevention showed fewer AML relapses when compared to adults with AML who have gotten a different drug to prevent PJP (Xiang et al, Blood, 2016). We will use Pablove funds to determine which patients will derive the most benefit from the inclusion of atovaquone in their treatment plans.

Awarded in 2020