Researcher Has a Passion for Leukemia — and Running in the DCC

Sarah Greenblatt, Ph.D., declares her passion uniquely: “I fell in love with leukemia!” A postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., she will participate in this year’s Dolphins Cancer Challenge (DCC) 5K run on Saturday, February 20.

“Cancer has always had a big impact on my family,” she said. “I became interested in leukemia when I worked on my Ph.D. at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute and rotated through a lab that studied small-molecule inhibitors for the treatment of pediatric leukemia.”

Greenblatt joined Sylvester three years ago and has been working on leukemia for the past two years. As part of her day in Nimer’s lab, she studies different enzymes that play a role in the development and progression of leukemia. A major goal of the lab is to come up with ways to target those enzymes in order to treat the disease.

“Ultimately, we want to develop a new therapy for a large number of leukemia patients; a drug that is targeted so that it causes less toxicity for patients,” she said. “We’re trying to figure out the mechanisms of how these enzymes drive leukemia and develop inhibitors for them. To do that, we develop model systems to see if the prototype inhibitors work.”

To Greenblatt, leukemia is an interesting disease because blood can easily be accessed, in contrast to solid tumors.

“I think we know a lot more about the genetics of leukemia than other cancers,” she said, “and it seems to be at the forefront of genetics research because you’re able to obtain the material easily from the patient.”

Greenblatt is one of many scientists in Nimer’s lab participating in the DCC this year. Two of her colleagues signed up for the bike ride, and Greenblatt and a few colleagues have volunteered at DCC events for kids. She signed up for the run because “I’m a runner. I did the Marine Corps Marathon last year. I love running to release stress.” Ultimately, she wants people to be excited about cancer research and see science in a positive light.

“It’s a really interesting field,” she says. “And the progress that has been made in the last few years has been very exciting and interesting.”

To learn more about the DCC, visit

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