The proof behind the promise
Dr. E. Donnall Thomas’ Nobel Prize-winning work in bone marrow transplantation led to pivotal discoveries about the immune system’s role in defeating cancer. Those discoveries, in turn, have ignited promising new fields like immunotherapy. Dr. Oliver Press and his colleagues are building on that lifesaving legacy, developing a next generation immune-based therapy for lymphoma patients.
The excitement around Dr. Press’ new therapy springs from the fact that it integrates not just one or two modest improvements but a host of breakthroughs that have recently emerged from Fred Hutch’s immunotherapy researchers. This includes custom techniques for engineering therapeutic T-cells that should make them simultaneously more effective at eliminating lymphoma cells and safer for patients. Dr. Press and his colleagues have also developed improved methods for rapidly growing large numbers of these T-cells in the lab before they are given to patients.
Because this experimental treatment combines so many novel components, Dr. Press must carry out thorough experiments documenting the proof behind the promise of the approach. With the help of your support, he and his colleagues have been able to do just that. They have gathered compelling preclinical evidence of the potential of their strategy, and they recently submitted a manuscript detailing their findings. The results set the stage for a first-in-human trial of the approach.
Over the coming months, Dr. Press’ team will focus on completing the steps necessary to obtain regulatory approval for their landmark trial. Thanks to your contributions, they can conduct the meticulous experiments needed to transition their therapy out of the lab and into the clinic where it can bring new hope to lymphoma patients.
Avoiding relapse to increase cures
Dr. Press and his colleagues are far from alone in their efforts to redefine the standard of care for cancer patients. With the support of contributions like yours, our teams continue to improve the ability of immune-based therapies, including transplantation, to cure cancer.
Although blood stem cell transplants offer the best chance of a cure for patients with certain leukemias, many of those individuals still face a high risk of their disease returning. To protect more transplant recipients from a potentially life-threatening relapse, Drs. Phil Greenberg and Merav Bar have launched a clinical trial to test the safety of administering specialized T-cells to patients after transplant. The therapeutic T-cells have been specifically engineered to kill leukemia cells more effectively than any immune response that might be naturally elicited in the patient.
Drs. Bar and Greenberg are now treating their third patient. Ultimately they plan to enroll more than 50 individuals with acute myeloid leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia or myelodysplastic syndrome who have relapsed following their transplants or are considered to be at high risk for relapse.