Research spotlight: Tim Steele

Tim Steele, Ph.D. is professor and chair of the department of microbiology and immunology. He has been on faculty at Des Moines University since 1999. His areas of research focus include tumor immunology and tumor immunotherapy.

Aggressive natural killer (NK) cell leukemias are devastating diseases which are nearly always fatal within weeks or, at best, a few months of diagnosis. Multi-agent chemotherapy has failed in the majority of patients with this disease. Therefore, new approaches to treatment must be developed that can provide a cure or significant life extension.

His laboratory utilizes the YT-INDY NK leukemia cell line as a pre-clinical/basic science model for studying the mechanisms behind statin-mediated inhibition of tumor cell functions. These functions include cytotoxicity, cell proliferation, cell cycle progression, and ERK MAP kinase signal transduction pathway activation.

Their hypothesis is that multiple members of the statin drug family will be highly effective at inhibiting the growth and cytotoxicity of the YT-INDY leukemia cell line at clinically-relevant concentrations.

Dr. Steele’s laboratory has demonstrated that clinically-relevant concentrations of fluvastatin and atorvastatin can inhibit critical cell functions of YT-INDY, thereby slowing cell growth or causing the destruction of the leukemia cells.

To discover a more effective therapeutic strategy against aggressive natural killer cell leukemia, they will continue to investigate the mechanism of statin-mediated inhibition of natural killer cell leukemia cell growth and cytotoxicity. Given the poor clinical outcomes of patients with this type of leukemia, it is critical that new approaches be explored to give patients and their families renewed hope that this devastating cancer can be conquered.

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