Christopher Hourigan named professor and director of Cancer Research Center at Virginia Tech

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Christopher Hourigan

Christopher Hourigan, a senior investigator and chief of the Laboratory of Myeloid Malignancies at the National Institutes of Health, will join Virginia Tech as a professor with the institute and director of its Fralin Biomedical Research Institute Cancer Research Center in Washington, D.C.

Hourigan’s research focuses on a high-risk form of blood cancer called acute myeloid leukemia, which annually affects about 20,000 Americans. He looks at reasons for why some people survive cancer while others end up dying, even though initially they seem to have had the same response to treatment.

In addition to his primary appointment with the institute, Hourigan will be a professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine.

Prior to joining Virginia Tech, Hourigan was a senior investigator, co-director of the Myeloid Malignancies Program, and chief of the Laboratory of Myeloid Malignancies at the NIH.

The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute Cancer Research Center is to bring basic, translational, clinical, and computational researchers together in the nation’s capital to focus on the shared aim of engineering cancer solutions.

Research will involve diverse, expert teams and national and international collaborations.

“We have the opportunity to build a new cancer research center from the ground up, focusing on getting talented and highly motivated teams working in innovative new ways to reduce the burden of suffering from cancer in the United States,” Hourigan said in a statement. “It’s clear we’re not doing well enough for people who are dealing with cancer, and this is our chance to come up with new ways to do better.”

The addition of Hourigan will accelerate the university’s initiatives in Washington, DC. Newly renovated research facilities on the site of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center on the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus already house Fralin Biomedical Research Institute cancer research scientists Jia-Ray Yu and Kathleen Mulvaney, along with teams of researchers from the Center for Genetic Medicine Research and Rare Disease Institute of Children’s National Hospital.

“The person who’s newly diagnosed with cancer and has gone through treatment will ask a reasonable question, ‘Well, what about me? I want to know what my actual likelihood of surviving is going to be and are you sure I don’t need more or different treatment?’” Hourigan said. “We’re strongly focused on the idea that if we had better diagnostic tools to allow a precision medicine approach, we could give doctors and patients a better understanding of exactly where they are now and what’s the best thing for them to do next.”

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When combined with azacitidine, a 7-day course of venetoclax demonstrated similar remission rates and was more tolerable compared to the standard 28-day course for older or chemotherapy-ineligible patients with newly diagnosed acute myeloid leukemia. Results from the retrospective multi-center analysis were presented by Alexandre Bazinet, assistant professor of leukemia at MD Anderson, at the 2024 American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting.