Dr. Helen Heslop is one of more than a dozen Texas researchers currently being funded by The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). Heslop and her team work out of Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and has been granted more than $6 million through 2018 in the form of an LLS SCOR grant. Below she describes her project and its potential impact on the treatment of blood cancers.
"One of the central goals of modern cancer therapy is to develop treatments that effectively kill tumor cells while sparing normal tissues. Harnessing T cells from the patient`s own immune system appears to offer one of the best strategies to achieve this result. The clinical potential of T-cell-based immunotherapy has been demonstrated many times in the laboratory and in patients with certain virus-linked cancers, but translation of these findings to the bedside has not been easy. Investigators in this SCOR, who pioneered the adoption of T-cell immunotherapy for lymphoma, now propose to translate this early success to additional blood malignancies, including multiple myeloma and acute leukemia and propose four projects designed to test novel approaches to cancer immunotherapy. PROJECT 1 asks whether banked, or “off-the-shelf,” T-cell preparations can be used successfully to treat virus-related lymphomas. PROJECT 2 will use a novel oral vaccine as a delivery system for proteins common in multiple myeloma cells, in order to stimulate more robust T-cell responses against this cancer. PROJECT 3 has modified T cells to express an artificial receptor, called a CAR, and is testing whether this addition will improve the precision of T-cell targeting of multiple myeloma. Finally, in PROJECT 4 the intent is to eradicate residual leukemia cells with T cells that have been stimulated with four different leukemia-related antigens. In all instances, the research projects are expected to interact with each other on a regular basis, so that the achievements of any single project should be greatly enhanced. Ultimately, the information generated by this SCOR proposal is expected to lead to more effective, and potentially curative, treatments for patients with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma."
The Marshall A. Lichtman Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) program is LLS' most ambitious research opportunity. This innovative program supports interdisciplinary research across at least three independent research projects that are integrated and supported by scientific core laboratories.