Dr. Bernstein is an expert in blood cancers, pediatric oncology, and research. He is head of the pediatric hematology/oncology division at Seattle Children's but does not see patients.
Dr. Bernstein holds the John R. Hartmann Endowed Chair in Pediatric Oncology/Hematology at Seattle Children’s and is an American Cancer Society professor. His research interests include blood-forming (hematopoietic) stem cells, antibody-targeted therapies for lymphoma and leukemia, and the biology of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). He has been principal investigator of a team investigating immunotherapy for hematologic malignancies, the Children's Oncology Group AML reference laboratory, and of the Progenitor Cell Biology Consortium studying the biology of hematopoietic stem cells.
Research in the Bernstein lab has primarily focused on developmental aspects of blood cell formation, maturation and diversification (hematopoiesis), with the specific goal of developing novel therapies. One set of studies identified maturation-associated proteins on AML cells. They advanced an antibody-based strategy to target one of these proteins (antigens), known as CD33. This led to the development of Mylotarg®, a CD33-targeting antibody that carries a lethal drug to kill AML cells; Mylotarg is now FDA-approved for treating patients with AML.
More recent studies have focused on the role of the “Notch” and interacting molecules (known as the Notch “signaling pathway”). The Bernstein team has shown that Notch signaling can enhance self-renewal of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells. Their findings led to a novel approach for engineered Notch ligand-induced expansion of stem cell numbers from umbilical cord blood exposure. This method produced a substantial increase in the number of CD34+ stem cells that were able to replenish the blood systems in transplanted mice. In clinical trial s led by Colleen Delaney, Notch-expanded stem cells can provide rapid early engraftment. A randomized study is currently testing if expanded, “off-the-shelf” cord blood precursors decrease the early transplant-related morbidity and mortality that can occur in patients undergoing umbilical cord blood transplantation and contribute to improvement in overall survival.