Wilmot Investigators Showcase Research at National Hematology Meeting

Dec. 11, 2023

The American Society of Hematology (ASH) is the leader in supporting research and clinical advances for blood cancers, such as leukemia and lymphoma. At the 2023 annual meeting on Dec. 9-12, Wilmot Cancer Institute physician-scientists and trainees gave numerous talks, took part in poster sessions, and were involved in dozens of collaborative research projects. Following is an alphabetical sampling of the Wilmot research selected by ASH for oral presentations.


  • Alison Livada — An MD/PhD student at the University of Rochester, Livada is presenting a study on a type of cell (megakaryocyte) that gives rise to platelets, and its connection to bone marrow disorders and low platelet counts, which can lead to dangerous internal bleeding. Platelets also play an important role in tumor development and growth in the bone marrow. She works in the lab of Craig Morrell, DVM, PhD, who studies the interface between platelets and immune cells.    
  • Marissa LoCastro fourth-yr med student with mentor Melissa Loh MD - 2023
    Marissa LoCastro, fourth-year medical student at UR, with mentor Melissa Loh, MD
    Marissa LoCastro — A fourth-year student at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, LoCastro presents results of a pilot study testing a communications tool called the “Serious Illness Care Program,” delivered via telehealth, to older adults with blood cancers and their families. Researchers found that the telehealth program was feasible and useable, and that it may also improve a patient’s understanding of cancer, promote a sense of control and peace with their cancer, and strengthen the patient-doctor relationship. LoCastro’s mentor is Melissa Loh, BMedSci, MBBCh, senior author of the study.


  • Noah Salama MD PhD student in Calvi lab - 2023
    Noah Salama, MD/PhD student at UR
    Noah Salama — An MD/PhD student in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Salama conducts research in the lab of Laura Calvi, MD, co-leader of Wilmot’s Cancer Microenvironment program. A current focus is on myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a serious pre-leukemia blood condition. Salama is presenting a study on the role of a gene mutation (isocitrate dehydrogenase 2 or IDH2) in pre-leukemia disorders, and how the mutation impairs the ability of the bone marrow to sweep out dying cells and produce new, healthy blood. Accumulation of dying cells leads to accelerated aging and damage to the bone marrow, where many cancers arise. Co-authors include: Jeevisha Bajaj, PhD; Roman Eliseev, MD, PhD; Jane Liesveld, MD; Jim Palis, MD; and Marlies Rossmann, MD, PhD.



  • Jonathan Friedberg —  The director of the Wilmot Cancer Institute and a renowned lymphoma expert, Friedberg is presenting a phase 3, double-blinded study of 206 follicular lymphoma patients, half of whom took vitamin D supplements during cancer treatment. Most of the patients had low levels of vitamin D at diagnosis, and the goal was to find out whether vitamin D supplementation could help survival after three years. Results showed no significant benefit to taking vitamin D, which suggests that low vitamin D levels are not likely to be a modifiable risk factor for lymphoma survival. Friedberg, MD, MMSc, was also involved in 26 other clinical research abstracts presented at ASH, including: two studies that address treatment advances for Hodgkin lymphoma in both adolescent patients and people older than age 60 (SWOG 1826), and an analysis of classification systems used to diagnose various types of lymphoma in more than 6,100 patients at major oncology clinics across the U.S.  
  • Melissa Loh — An oncology specialist in treating older adults with cancer, Loh is presenting a study on the use of a communications tool that measures patient values and wishes, including the extent to which patients want to be involved in treatment decisions. She showed that older patients’ decisions are more diverse than younger patients: While younger patients generally prioritize survival over treatment toxicities, older patients may prioritize quality of life, cognition, and being able to perform daily activities. Loh, MD, is also presenting data in a scientific workshop on epigenetic age and exercise in older adults with myeloid cancers. At Wilmot, she leads the geriatric oncology team and is a mentor for younger oncologists. Loh is also taking part in a micro-learning session at ASH known for its rapid-fire coverage of several clinical and educational issues of value to hematology trainees.
  • Kristen O’Dwyer — In an important study in the SWOG national oncology network of clinical trials, O’Dwyer, MD, accrued the second-largest group of patients (from Wilmot) to evaluate a new treatment combination for older patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). They were followed for four years, and the study showed that survival odds were excellent, with additional studies being planned. O’Dwyer is a co-author on multiple other ASH abstracts, and also specializes in treating children, adolescents, and young adults with blood cancers; she co-chairs an ASH special-interest session on ALL therapy and managing remission in this group of patients. 
  • Marlies Rossmann — A new recruit to Wilmot from Harvard University, Rossmann studies the early formation of red blood cells and their components, and the influences that determine a cell’s final form. This type of research can provide insights for treating blood cancers such as leukemia, and for preventing damage to the body’s aging blood system. Her study at ASH describes several factors that drive cell-fate decisions that could have therapeutic potential for blood diseases. Rossmann, MD, PhD, is also moderating a panel discussion on red blood cells and emerging gene regulatory systems. She an assistant professor in Biomedical Genetics at URMC.
  • AnnaLynn Williams — A researcher who focuses on adolescent and young adult cancer survivors, Williams, PhD, is presenting a study that measures quality of life among patients with high-risk Hodgkin lymphoma who were treated with a newer drug regimen. Results showed that those patients indeed reported a more rapid and sustained improvement in quality of life compared to patients who received a standard treatment. At last year’s ASH meeting, Williams was selected to present a study at a national press event on accelerated aging among young adults who were treated as children for Hodgkin lymphoma.