CPRIT Awards $19.6 Million to MD Anderson, Sidney Kimmel Establishes Philadelphia T-cell Lymphoma/Leukemia Initiative, and more

Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Establishes Philadelphia T-cell Lymphoma/Leukemia Initiative

The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center – Jefferson Health (SKCC at Jefferson) will use a $500,000 gift to establish the Philadelphia T-cell Lymphoma/Leukemia Initiative, a program to be led by Pierluigi Porcu, MD, Director of the Cancer Center’s Division of Hematologic Malignancies and Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation.

The family of Milton Hendricks, a patient with T-cell lymphoma successfully treated by Dr. Porcu, provided the gift to honor Mr. Hendricks, who died of liver cancer in 2017.

Dr. Porcu hopes that this program, which will study T-cell lymphoma and leukemia (TCLL) at the population level in the Philadelphia area, will address knowledge gaps in TCLL and improve patient care. During the first phase of the initiative, the researchers will collect information about genetic, ethnic, and socioeconomic factors in TCLL, then apply these findings to efforts to improve access and treatment.

“Launching the Philadelphia T-cell Lymphoma/Leukemia Initiative will allow us to confront these elusive cancers head on and finally unlock their mysteries once and for all,” Dr. Porcu said. “Our research plan aims to discover new ways to prevent, detect, and cure TCLL. Our vision is to apply and disseminate this knowledge locally and globally to improve the lives of patients at SKCC and beyond.”

Source: Sidney Kimmel press release, March 4, 2020.

Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy Awards $2.75 Million to Early-Career Researchers

The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI) has selected six early-career researchers from collaborating institutions to receive a cumulative total of $2.75 million in financial support. Awarded through the Parker Scholars, Parker Bridge Fellows, and Parker Senior Fellows programs, the grants will provide both financial and institutional support to early-career scientists working in immuno-oncology.

This year’s awardees and their research focuses include:

  • Cansu Cimen Bozkus, PhD, Parker Bridge Fellow, Tisch Cancer Institute at Mount Sinai, for researching immune responses against tumor-specific antigens
  • Sharareh (Sherri) Gholamin, MD, PhD, Parker Scholar, City of Hope, for investigating how chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapies can overcome resistance in brain cancer treatments
  • Kelly Kersten, PhD, Parker Scholar, University of California, San Francisco, for studying the effect of myeloid cells in the onset of T-cell exhaustion
  • Sydney Lu, MD, PhD, Parker Bridge Fellow, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, for researching checkpoint inhibitor therapies for hard-to-treat cancers like lung, bladder, and kidney
  • Cristina Puig Saus, PhD, Parker Senior Fellow, University of California, Los Angeles, for studying T cells’ response to mutations in tumors after checkpoint inhibitor treatment
  • Jennifer Wu, PhD-c, Parker Scholar, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of
    Pennsylvania, for developing in vitro models to understand why T cells become exhausted and why current therapies can only partially reverse exhaustion

“[These researchers] bring open minds and fresh approaches to the toughest challenges in the field, which are grounded in their early training in some of the best labs in the country,” said Lisa Butterfield, PhD, Vice President of Research and Development at PICI.

Along with the grant, awardees will have the opportunity to collaborate with leaders in the field, attend retreats and events, and access technologies to assist and advance their research.

Source: Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy press release, February 26, 2020.

CPRIT Awards $19.6 Million to MD Anderson

The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) awarded $19.6 million to MD Anderson Cancer Center to support cancer research and prevention efforts, including recruitment of first-time tenure-track faculty members, tobacco control and lung cancer screening, and expansion of cancer prevention services to underserved populations.

“I am particularly pleased that CPRIT has earmarked vital funding for preventive outreach and study for those who are medically underserved,” said Peter W. T. Pisters, MD, President of MD Anderson. “This emphasis, along with significant research and recruitment support, aids us in our effort to end cancer.”

This funding includes $12 million in Individual Investigator Awards for MD Anderson researchers, including the following recipients who are working in hematologic malignancies and immuno-oncology:

  • Simona Colla, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Leukemia, for targeting hypomethylating resistance in myelodysplastic syndromes ($900,000)
  • Michael Curran, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Immunology, for deciphering the underlying biology and translational relevance of PD-L2 ($900,000)
  • Roza Nurieva, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Immunology, for therapeutic potential of T-follicular helper cells for melanoma treatment ($900,000)

University of Maryland’s Cancer Center Joins Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium

The University of Maryland’s Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC) has joined the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium (Big Ten CRC), which was created in 2013 and now comprises the cancer centers of all fourteen Big Ten universities. Because the University of Illinois has cancer centers in Chicago and in Champaign-Urbana, there are 15 members of the Big Ten CRC.

The Big Ten CRC includes more than 300 researchers active in the consortium’s Clinical Trial Working Groups, where investigators develop study concepts, provide scientific feedback, and identify participating institutions where studies can be opened. The consortium has launched 25 clinical trials and enrolled more than 500 patient volunteers to date.

“We are delighted to join the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium and look forward to forging new research partnerships with colleagues at other top academic institutions who share our commitment to developing effective new treatments for patients – and ultimately defeating cancer,” said UMGCCC Director Kevin J. Cullen, MD, Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Distinguished Professor in Oncology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Source: University of Maryland press release, January 21, 2020.