EIPM Molecular Aging Initiative

The Englander Institute for Precision Medicine’s new Molecular Aging Initiative seeks to decipher the age-related changes in DNA that cause disease. Members of this new initiative will include scientific and clinical leaders with expertise in areas of predictive analytics to understand and potentially act upon molecular mechanisms of aging.

Mutations in DNA are known to drive the development of cancers. However, mutations also occur in healthy tissues as people age and drive diseases other than cancer.  This new team of EIPM scientists and clinicians are leading the charge in determining how acquired mutations in healthy-appearing tissues impact our health.

Pinkal Desai, M.D.

“Understanding clonal hematopoiesis (CH) and molecular aging has immediate implications for patients,” said EIPM Member Pinkal Desai, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine in the WCM Hematology and Medical Oncology Department and is the Charles, Lillian, and Betty Neuwirth Clinical Scholar in Oncology, and Clinical Director of the EIPM Molecular Aging Institute.

“This research will lead to the development of monitoring and intervention strategies and enable continued development of prevention clinics focused on CH and other factors that may affect disease predisposition. The impact of this work has major implications in cardiovascular risk as well, which is known to be associated with CH. Cancer and CVD are a major research focus for EIPM and this line of work will combine a cross pollination of both these fields,” added Dr. Desai.

To catalyze the effort, the EIPM has developed the highly optimized and inexpensive PreCISE-1 test, which will enable clinicians, researchers, and eventually patients to access a genetic risk portrait that includes both age-related and inherited mutations contributing to cancer and cardiovascular disease. The data will provide an unparalleled resource for selecting patients for clinical trials based on their aging profile.

Dr. Cora Sternberg

“The EIPM is well-positioned to address CH and other forms of molecular aging,” said Cora N. Sternberg, M.D. (right), EIPM Clinical Director. “With access to a diverse patient population representing a broad range of age-related diseases we can better understand CH and other forms of molecular aging, and we may be able use these data to improve health. To this end, we are deploying PreCISE-1 with the goal of converting it to a clinically actionable test. We hope to develop therapeutics to combat CH in patients.”

In collaboration with blood cancer and cardiovascular clinical specialists, including Gail J. Roboz, M.D., Pinkal Desai, M.D., and Geoffrey Pitt, M.D., the team will develop monitoring and intervention strategies. The effort will enable these physicians to develop prevention clinics focused on CH and other factors that may affect disease predisposition.

The presence of CH has also recently been shown to affect clinical outcomes in solid tumors. By combining PreCISE-1 with ExACT-1, the EIPM’s first whole exome test approved for oncology, the EIPM will aim to provide an unprecedented risk portrait of cancer and possibly the development of new therapeutic strategies tailored to the presence of CH.

“Mutations associated with aging have the potential to better inform how we treat cancer patients with active disease, and also tell us about the future risk of many diseases in healthy persons,” said EIPM Director Olivier Elemento, Ph.D. (left). “The Molecular Aging Initiative will enable us to devise the best available interventions based on the unique aging profile of each patient.”

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