Connie Yang

MSTP in PhD Training

Program: Molecular Genetics and Genomics

Current advisor: Drew Schwartz, MD, PhD

Undergraduate university: McGill University, 2021

Enrollment year: 2021

Research summary
Validation of candidates driving disease progression from chronic MPN to sAML

This past summer I worked in the lab of Dr. Stephen Oh in the department of hematology. Chronic myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs) exhibit a propensity for transformation to secondary acute myeloid leukemia (sAML), for which the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood, resulting in limited treatment options and dismal clinical outcomes. Here, we performed bulk transcriptome profiling accompanied by single cell RNA-sequencing on CD34+ stem/progenitor cells from serial patient samples obtained at the chronic MPN and sAML phases, and identified aberrantly increased expression of dual-specificity phosphatase 6 (DUSP6) underlying disease transformation. Genetic and pharmacologic targeting of DUSP6 led to inhibition of S6 and JAK/STAT signaling, resulting in potent suppression of cell proliferation, while also reducing inflammatory cytokine production in primary samples. Furthermore, ectopic DUSP6 expression augmented proliferation and mediated JAK2 inhibitor resistance, while DUSP6 inhibition reduced colony-forming potential of JAK2 inhibitor-persistent patient cells. Mechanistically, DUSP6 perturbation dampened S6 signaling via inhibition of RSK1, which we identified as a second indispensable candidate associated with poor clinical outcome. Lastly, DUSP6 inhibition potently suppressed disease development across Jak2 V617F and MPL W515L MPN mouse models, and sAML patient-derived xenografts. These findings underscore DUSP6 in driving disease transformation and therapeutic resistance, and highlight the DUSP6-RSK1 axis as a novel, druggable pathway in myeloid malignancies.


Graduate publications