The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has announced it has committed $40.3 million in new research investments to advance the most promising blood cancer science at leading academic and medical centers around the world, including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Weill Cornell Medicine; Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; MD Anderson Cancer Center; Fondazione Centro San Raffaele; and South Australian Health & Medical Research Institute. This $40.3 million investment, comprising 75 new research grants, will fund a diverse array of research to find better treatments and cures for patients with leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and other blood cancers.
The LLS acts as a catalyst for collaboration among academic researchers, biotechnology companies, and the government, to push the envelope on the newest research approaches, including immunotherapy and precision medicine. The LLS supports basic research to large-scale clinical trials, with the goal of accelerating treatments and cures to the 1.2 million people in the United States living with a blood cancer.
The key areas of focus for these research grants follow.
Going on the Offensive Against AML
This new investment comes on top of other major research initiatives underway at the LLS, including the launch of its Beat AML Master Trial, a collaborative precision medicine clinical trial for patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). This disease has seen little change in the standard of care in more than 40 years. The trial involves multiple treatment arms at various cancer centers and is employing advanced genomic technology to deliver investigational targeted therapies to patients more quickly.
The Master Trial is part of a multipronged approach, which includes the following topics:
The LLS is investing more than $11 million in research to harness the power of the patient’s own immune system to kill cancer. The Society is expanding its large commitment to a novel approach to chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy, in which the T cells of a patient with lymphoma are being genetically reprogrammed and reintroduced into the patient to find and attack cancer cells.
We have assembled a world-class science team to take advantage of the recent developments in immunotherapy to apply them to innovative treatment strategies for patients with lymphoma.— Anas Younes, MD
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A Specialized Center of Research study led by Anas Younes, MD, and colleagues, of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, is designed to advance new-generation CAR T cells that contain activated T cells and direct them to shut down the immune defense mechanisms of the blood cancer cell at the same time.
“For almost 2 decades, the standard therapy and cure rate of patients with diffuse large B-cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma have not significantly changed,” said Dr. Younes. “With the LLS [Specialized Center of Research] grant, we have assembled a world-class science team to take advantage of the recent developments in immunotherapy to apply them to innovative treatment strategies for patients with lymphoma. Our goal is to change the standard of care and to improve treatment outcomes.”
The LLS is also collaborating with the Rising Tide Foundation for Clinical Cancer Research to fund $2.4 million of translational research designed to further harness the immune system. Four $600,000 grants at Stanford University, Baylor College of Medicine, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and the University of Sydney (Australia) will apply a further understanding of the immune system to clinical trials that activate the immune system in patients with leukemia and lymphoma.
Ari Melnick, MD, of Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center at Weill Cornell Medicine, is leading a third new Specialized Center of Research team to study the molecular differences that make some patients with lymphoma resistant to treatment, with a goal of developing treatments that overcome resistance to chemotherapy or effective treatments that do not require chemotherapy.
Another such project, led by Madhav Dhodapkar, MD, of Yale University, will study targeted approaches to treat the rare blood cancer monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance, a rare, frequently a precursor to multiple myeloma, through a $600,000 Translational Research Program grant, a program that expedites promising research from the laboratory into treatments. “It is an honor to receive this grant,” Dr. Dhodapkar said. “It will enable us to gain fundamental insights into how myeloma develops and explore new approaches to target it in the clinic.”
LLS 2017 Research Portfolio