Good News: Fred Hutch immunotherapy expert Dr. Phil Greenberg joins Parker Institute

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Dr. Phil Greenberg
Dr. Phil Greenberg Photo by Robert Hood / Fred Hutch News Service

Fred Hutch immunologist Dr. Phil Greenberg joins Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy

The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy yesterday announced that Dr. Phil Greenberg, head of the Program in Immunology at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has joined its team of more than 300 scientists from the academic, nonprofit, biotech and pharma sectors. According to its website, the San Francisco–based organization “brings together the best scientists, clinicians, and industry partners to build a smarter and more coordinated cancer immunotherapy research effort to save lives.”

Immunotherapy, an offshoot of Fred Hutch’s pioneering work in bone marrow transplantation, harnesses the body’s immune system to eliminate cancer cells.

“Phil brings decades of experience in cancer immunotherapy to our network,” said Dr. Fred Ramsdell, vice president of research at the Parker Institute. “He is one of the few scientists who is fully at home in the world of basic immunology as well as clinical cancer immunology. His insights in the field will further enable our mission at the Parker Institute.”

Initially, Greenberg will collaborate with the Parker Institute on two research projects:

  • Developing mouse models to characterize and test translatable strategies for treating pancreatic cancer. New mouse models provide the opportunity to systematically examine both the mechanism of immunosuppression as well as the effectiveness of various therapeutic approaches in this tumor type.
  • Identifying methods to develop more effective T cells to use in adoptive cell therapy approaches to treat ovarian cancer. The experiments will use multiple mouse models, including genetic models, to explore pathways and mechanisms to enhance the activity of adoptively transferred T cells.  

Greenberg has provided strategic guidance to the institute since it launched in 2016.

“I had the opportunity to participate in the planning stages of the Parker Institute, including setting goals and designing the organizational structure, and it is an honor now to join the network,” Greenberg said. “I’m looking forward to pursuing collaborative solutions with other researchers to overcome obstacles and achieve success with immunotherapy of solid and hematologic malignancies. I believe the nature and principles of the institute, including data sharing and multi-investigator studies, will help move research to the clinic more quickly and effectively.”

The Parker Institute taps world-renowned experts from leading cancer centers, including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Stanford Medicine; University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, San Francisco; University of Pennsylvania and MD Anderson Cancer Center, among others, in its quest to turn cancer into a curable disease.

— Based on a Parker Institute statement

Dr. Taran Gujral
Dr. Taran Gujral Fred Hutch file photo

Dr. Taran Gujral collaborates with CID Research on new approach for identifying anti-malaria drugs

Investigators at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have announced a new approach for identifying drugs that are effective against malaria. Researchers adapted an approach originally developed in the lab of Dr. Taran Gujral at the Hutch to perform cancer drug discovery to understand and treat malaria parasites. This discovery marks the first time the approach has been applied to infectious disease research.

In a new study published Nov. 15 in Nature Communications, researchers in the Kaushansky Lab at CID Research collaborated with Gujral and colleagues in the Hutch's Human Biology Division to combine experimental biology with computation to identify 47 proteins in the liver that are important for malaria parasite infection and therefore are potential drug targets. The researchers also successfully predicted drugs that have been developed for other diseases that could be useful in preventing malaria infection. 

Testing these predictions showed a very high success rate: Over 80 percent of predicted proteins tested were validated. The success suggests that the approach can be expanded to identify drugs against other infectious diseases, making the process of drug discovery more efficient.

Thomas Bello, a Molecular & Cellular Biology Program student in the Gujral Lab, built a computational model used in the study to identify important proteins involved in malaria infection. “We are now applying a similar approach to uncover new targets for combating cancer metastasis and resistance to therapy,” Gujral said.

Maximizing data from small experiments is a critical issue in infectious disease research. On average, individuals afflicted with malaria live on $2 per day, and the resources available to fight the disease are limited. Since malaria kills someone every minute, effective drug-discovery efforts are also critical. This study demonstrates that the integration of computational tools with laboratory experiments can make the most of available limited resources. 

“This is an important starting point. It is our hope that this work will lead to a better understanding of how the malaria parasite is able to survive in humans and increase our ability to rapidly repurpose existing drugs to prevent and treat malaria. We hope this method can accelerate the rate of discovery of lifesaving therapies for malaria and other diseases that take lives and cause suffering,” said Dr. Alexis Kaushansky, principal investigator at CID Research.

— Based on a CID Research news release

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