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The American Society of Hematology has issued a report urging scientists and funding institutions to coordinate their efforts around six research areas with the strongest potential to make a dramatic impact on the care of patients with a wide range of diseases.

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"Hematologists are at the forefront of a new era of research utilizing technology to do extraordinary things, such as catalogue and interpret massive amounts of genetic material, correct genetic mutations, harness the immune system to fight cancer, and create 'genetically engineered' blood cells," ASH President David A. Williams, MD, of Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said in a news release. "Thanks to new technologies, we are gleaning insights that are providing a strong foundation for progress in treating hematologic diseases and beyond."


To sustain continued scientific progress in hematology and other medical fields for years to come, the Society recommends that further research support be allocated to the following highly promising areas of scientific investigation:


* Genomic profiling: Dedicating resources to new approaches that can more accurately read and analyze large quantities of genetic data will help hematologists develop more effective therapies that are individually tailored to a patient's specific disease;


* Genome editing and gene therapy: Supporting efforts to correct mutations that cause a wide range of inherited blood diseases, such as hemophilia, sickle cell disease, thalassemia, and immune disorders such as "bubble boy disease" could lead to cures and alleviate suffering.


* Epigenetics: Exploring the non-DNA changes that regulate gene function and how these changes affect disease will likely lead to better treatments for patients with blood diseases who have not responded to standard therapies;


* Immunotherapy: Harnessing patients' own immune systems to attack blood cancers, reducing tumor burden and preventing relapse from minimal residual disease, can be an effective approach for treating some diseases.


* Stem cell research: Advancing stem cell research to create specially engineered cells for transfusion or transplantation that can repair damaged tissue, fight infections, and reduce autoimmune disease will redefine approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of blood diseases.


* Blood clots: Conducting research aimed at gaining a better understanding of how blood clots form in the blood vessels (thromboembolism) will help to develop better preventive therapies and better treatments for blood clots, and ultimately reduce deaths from this common, but under-estimated, condition.



"These six high-priority areas represent some of the most powerful strategies for revolutionizing the way we treat patients with blood diseases, improving their prognosis and minimizing the side effects of current standard therapies," said the Chair of the ASH Committee on Scientific Affairs, Charles Mullighan, MD, of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.


"Dedicated research support and coordination among organizations that fund, legislate, regulate, or implement hematology research will enable continued pursuit of these areas. This important work will also prepare the next generation of investigators to produce high-impact results that will transform our ability to diagnose and treat patients with blood diseases for years to come."


Further information on the ASH Agenda for Hematology Research is available at: