Dr. Byrd’s area of research focuses predominately on the biology and treatment of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and drug development in myeloid malignancies as well. These efforts include detailed pre-clinical and clinical studies of immune and targeted therapies as well as application of genomic and biochemical features to predict response to treatment. Dr. Byrd was responsible for developing a safe and effective way of utilizing rituximab in CLL including detailed studies to characterize both relevant mechanisms of action in vivo and how patients become resistant to this therapy. Ultimately, this effort resulted in introduction of rituximab in combination with chemotherapy which represented the first therapy to prolong survival in this disease. His laboratory performed sentinel pre-clinical studies with Bruton's tyrosine kinase (BTK) inhibitors and translated the irreversible BTK kinase inhibitor ibrutinib into phase Ib/II/III clinical trials in CLL, where dramatic durable remissions have been demonstrated. It now is apparent that the majority of CLL patients will not require chemotherapy for the treatment of their disease. Byrd has gone on to develop a recently approved 2nd generation BTKi (acalabrutinib) that potentially overcome early resistance and also side effects associated with ibrutinib. Byrd's team has identified the subset of patients at risk for relapse on ibrutinib and has developed therapies to effectively treat these patients. Overall, his work seeks to challenge current paradigms applied to CLL in an effort to improve both survival and quality of life for patients with this disease. Recently, Dr. Byrd has focused his laboratory efforts to development of pre-clinical tools to develop new drugs, identification and implementation of targeted therapies, and translation of these to the clinic in acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes. This effort is encompassed in the Beat AML Leukemia and Lymphoma Society sponsored Umbrella Trial to which he is one of the principals and also the Chief Medical Officer.
John C. Byrd, MD