Remembering Brian P. Sorrentino, NIH Awards Washington University Leukemia Program, and more

Brian P. Sorrentino, MD

Remembering Brian P. Sorrentino (1958-2018)

Brian P. Sorrentino, MD, a gene-therapy researcher specializing in the treatment of blood and immune cell disorders, passed away on November 16, 2018, at the age of 60. At the time of his death, Dr. Sorrentino was director of both the Experimental Hematology Division and the Vector Production Facility at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

He survived Hodgkin lymphoma as a teenager in the 1970s, but the aggressive treatment left him with long-term complications including cardiac issues and radiation-induced lung cancer.

Dr. Sorrentino worked at St. Jude for 25 years. Most recently, he conducted research to improve the immune systems of infants with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency.

“Dr. Sorrentino was a prodigious researcher, and his colleagues and friends at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital will remember his kindhearted nature and dedication,” said James R. Downing, MD, St. Jude’s president and CEO. “We mourn the loss of a great individual, but we will continue to carry on his work as we strive to advance cures for children with catastrophic diseases.”

Dr. Sorrentino was an active member of the American Society of Hematology, serving as a reviewer for Blood and on several committees during his career.

Source: WMC5, November 20, 2018; Memphis USA Today, November 18, 2018.

NIH Awards $11.5 Million to Washington University’s Leukemia Program

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has been awarded an $11.5-million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support investigations into leukemia and related blood cancers.

The grant was given through the NIH’s Specialized Program in Research Excellence (SPORE), which is intended to boost translational research. Researchers at Washington University’s SPORE center will use the funds for five projects studying biomarkers and new treatments for leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS).

These include:

  • evaluating decitabine in the treatment of TP53-mutated acute myeloid leukemia (AML; project leads: Timothy J. Ley, MD, and John S. Welch, MD, PhD)
  • developing new therapies for T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (project lead: Daniel C. Link, MD, and Geoffrey L. Uy, MD)
  • investigating ATR inhibitors for the treatment of MDS (project leads: Timothy A. Graubert, MD, and Matthew J. Walter, MD)
  • evaluating bispecific antibodies against AML (project leads: John F. DiPersio, MD, PhD, and Michael Rettig, PhD)
  • activating natural killer cells to make them more effective (project leads: Todd Fehniger, MD, PhD, and Amanda F. Cashen, MD)

Source: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis press release, November 6, 2018.

Michel Sadelain, MD, PhD

Immunologist Michel Sadelain Wins Pasteur-Weizmann/Servier Prize

Michel Sadelain, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Cell Engineering at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, is the winner of the 2018 Pasteur-Weizmann/Servier Prize, in recognition of his work supporting the development of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies.

The Pasteur-Weizmann/Servier Prize is awarded every three years to an international researcher, medical doctor, or scientist who has made a major contribution to biomedical science used to develop new therapies. The winner receives €250,000 to support his or her research.

Source: L’Institut Servier press release, October 16, 2018.

Philanthropy Group Awards 10 New Distinguished Investigators

The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, a philanthropic group established by the Microsoft co-founder, awarded nine grants to 10 investigators as part of its Allen Distinguished Investigators program. Winners receive $1.5 million in funding to support biomedical research in areas ranging from neuroscience to basic biology and the immune system.

The recipients included three projects focusing on the treatment of hematologic malignancies:

  • Christian Steidl, MD, from BC Cancer Research Centre and the University of British Columbia, will study the tumor microenvironment of Hodgkin lymphoma to better understand how cancer cells can “hijack” the body’s natural processes to allow the growth and spread of cancer cells.
  • Matthias Stephan, MD, PhD, from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, will develop a nanoparticle immunotherapy for lymphoma that reprograms a patient’s own immune cells to recognize and destroy lymphoma cells.
  • David Weinstock, MD, from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Scott Manalis, PhD, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will attempt to convert lymphoma remissions into cures by studying minimal residual disease and its resistance to treatment.

Source: Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group press release, October 30, 2018.