Three American scientists are sharing $1.3 million from the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy to investigate whether immunotherapy and gene therapy can combat three of the most life-threatening forms of cancer: ovarian, brain and bone cancer.
The three are Drs. Daniel Powell Jr. of the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, Nori Kasahara of the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Seth Pollack of Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
“We have big hopes for these grants,” John Walter, the alliance’s president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “The recent FDA approval of the first gene therapy treatment to come out of this research, Kymriah, validates the promise of this science. With these three new clinical investigator grants, we hope to see similar results with immunotherapy and virotherapy [virus-based therapies] in treating hard-to-combat solid tumor cancers.”
Powell will work on CAR T-cell therapies for ovarian cancer. He will use his grant to enroll nine patients in a new clinical trial of the treatment. CAR T-cell therapy involves gathering a patient’s own immune T-cells, engineering them in a lab to recognize cancer cells, then reintroducing them to the patient. The full scientific name for CAR T-cells is chimeric antigen receptor T-cells.
Kasahara will investigate viral therapies for brain cancer, or glioblastoma, and Pollack immunotherapies against bone cancer, or sarcoma.
The Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy grants will allow “these scientists to advance their research from the laboratory to the bedside for patients in clinical trials, providing for an opportunity to see these treatments work in actual patients and hopefully save lives,” Walter said. The organization’s goal “is to truly make an impact on how cancer is treated through the use of gene and cell therapies, so that one day cancer will be a treatable and manageable disease.”
The alliance is the only U.S. organization dedicated exclusively to funding cell and gene therapy cancer research. It has made 55 grants totaling more than $28 million since its inception in 2001.