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Physician Resource

Researcher Highlight Q&A: Thomas Loughran, MD, LGL Leukemia and AML

Thomas Loughran, Jr., MD, joined UVA Health in 2013 to serve as director of the Cancer Center. Under his leadership, UVA Health became an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Loughran's career as a physician scientist is a testament to translational research, beginning with his discovery of large granular lymphocyte (LGL) leukemia. He tops the Expertscape World Expert list for his research contributions to understanding what drives LGL leukemia. He has published numerous articles in high impact peer-reviewed journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine, Annals of Internal Medicine, and Lancet. See his research interests and selected publications.

In the video, Loughran discusses his research. And in the Q&A below, he reveals his work's most intriguing clinical applications for LGL and acute myeloid leukemias.

What are you working on right now?  

Our translational research lab continues to focus on two types of leukemias: LGL leukemia and AML. With many projects, we take a broad-based approach to both illnesses. Research in LGL leukemia is investigating the underlying pathogenesis, including molecular and genomic studies. Our research in AML is supported by a major program project grant now in its 8th year of funding.  

What are the most intriguing potential clinical applications of your work?  

In LGL leukemia, there are a number of clinical applications in the form of investigating new therapeutics in Phase I/II clinical trials. Our lab has contributed to the pre-clinical development in some instances. And the clinical trials are being led by my UVA colleagues in the Hematology/Oncology Division. These include STAT3 inhibitors as well as antibodies that deplete LGL.

And in work supported by our PO1, we are investigating targeting sphingolipid metabolism in AML delivered by nanotherapeutics.

What recent discovery has impacted the way you think? 

We've recently elucidated key genomic drivers in LGL leukemia, with 3 high-impact papers in Blood and Nature Genetics in the past two years.

How did you become interested in your area of research? 

I have worked on LGL leukemia since our discovery of the illness was first published in 1985.

What made you choose UVA Health as the place to do your research?  

I was recruited here in 2013 to be the director of the UVA Cancer Center. I welcomed the opportunity to build on a foundation of strength and to take UVA to the next level as a comprehensive cancer center by fully integrating clinical and research operations.

What do you wish more people knew about your area of research? 

Although LGL leukemia is rare, it has a tight connection to a more common illness, rheumatoid arthritis.

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