A five-year, $10.7-million National Cancer Institute grant was awarded to the Translational Center of Excellence for Lung Cancer Immunology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Abramson Cancer Center. Researchers will use the grant to investigate a type of immunotherapy shown successful in treating leukemia and lymphoma patients as a potential treatment for individuals with mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma is a rare type of cancer that results from asbestos exposure. It affects the lining of the internal organs, most often affecting the lining of the lungs and abdomen. It also may affect the lining of the heart, and the testicles. There is currently no known cure for mesothelioma.

Specifically, the new research will enable researchers to better understand how chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cells can be used to fight solid tumors in mesothelioma and lung cancer patients.

“CAR-T cells have revolutionized the treatment of leukemia and lymphoma, so our goal is to see if we can translate that success to mesothelioma,” said lead researcher Steven M. Albelda, M.D., the William Maul Measey Professor of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and a member of the Cellular Immunotherapies at the Abramson Cancer Center.

CAR-T-cell therapy is an immunotherapy that uses part of a patient’s immune system to fight cancer. A sample of a patient’s T cells are collected from the blood, then modified to produce special structures called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface. When these CAR-T cells are reinfused into the patient, the new receptors enable the cells to bind to cancer cells and kill them.

Preliminary data from research conducted at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York showed that mesothelin-targeted CAR-T cell therapy combined with another type of cancer therapy called PD1 agents, was found to be safe and effective in certain patients.

“Between the two groups, I hope we can figure out a way to get these CAR-T cells to work – either by themselves or in combination with checkpoint inhibitors – so we can translate the paradigm-shifting success in leukemia and lymphoma to mesothelioma,” Dr. Albelda said.

Source: Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation

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