City of Hope Awarded Lymphoma SPORE Grant From NCI

Published: Thursday, Feb 21, 2019

An international leader in finding new, innovative treatments for lymphoma patients, City of Hope announced today that it has received its third lymphoma Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), one of four current NCI-supported lymphoma SPOREs. The grant covers a five-year period and totals $12.5 million.

SPOREs – a cornerstone of the NCI’s efforts to promote collaborative, interdisciplinary translational cancer research – involve both basic and clinical/applied scientists working together to support projects that will result in new and diverse approaches to the prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of human cancers. This interdisciplinary research is currently advanced in the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center, which is the foundation of City of Hope’s Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute.

“For many years now, City of Hope has led the way in pioneering bone marrow transplantation, immunotherapy and other innovative treatment options for lymphoma patients, both those who are being diagnosed with the disease for the first time and those who have experienced a relapse,” said Stephen J. Forman, MD, City of Hope Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and leader of the Hematologic Malignancies and Stem Cell Transplantation Institute. “This renewal of lymphoma SPORE will make it possible for us to continue developing leading-edge therapies in our laboratories that will ultimately reach a patient’s bedside.”

“City of Hope will do this by developing novel therapeutics and prognostics representing the forefront of knowledge gained from observations in molecular biology and cellular immunology at City of Hope,” said Larry W. Kwak, MD, PhD, vice president/deputy director of City of Hope’s comprehensive cancer center, director of the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center and the Dr. Michael Friedman Professor in Translational Medicine. “Six clinical trials are proposed in this grant, five of which utilize agents (cellular products, small molecules, radiolabeled antibodies) that will be produced at City of Hope in its Good Manufacturing Practice Manufacturing Core and have been developed from the institution’s preclinical laboratory studies.”

The grant is led by Forman and Kwak as multi-principal investigators. This is the 11th year City of Hope has received funding from the NCI for a lymphoma SPORE grant.

The Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center has helped to create the collaborative, fast-paced culture in which the projects in the new SPORE will be advanced. It is home to many of the accomplished faculty and leading experts who are conducting clinical trials that have come about with SPORE funding, and has a track record of developing new therapies for many types of lymphoma.

Established by Emmet and Toni Stephenson, and their daughter Tessa Stephenson Brand, the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center brings together physicians and scientists in a highly-interdisciplinary infrastructure to accelerate City of Hope’s research on the biological mechanisms of lymphoma, identify new molecular targets and produce immunotherapies to treat the disease. In addition, the Stephenson Pilot Grant program funds new ideas for lymphoma or treatment platforms that can be innovatively applied across disease sites, including lymphoma. The cores in the SPORE award are also supported in part by Stephenson funds.

Over the next five years, City of Hope doctors and researchers, as well as scientists from other institutions, will focus on the following projects for the SPORE grant:

CAR T therapy and vaccine combination for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma

After patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL) have received a blood stem cell transplant with their own stem cells or that of a donor, there could still be enough cancerous cells not killed by the procedure for the disease to relapse. City of Hope is on a quest to improve current treatment for these patients, as well as those with NHL who are unable to receive a transplant. A treatment option for these patients is combining a transplant with chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy; during the last round of lymphoma SPORE funding, City of Hope started a clinical trial for NHL patients that used a treatment combining a transplant with CD19 CAR T cells. (Researchers published the positive treatment results in the journal Blood and also presented on the research at the American Society of Hematology conference.) The therapy works by taking a person’s immune cells – T cells – and adding a CAR that helps target and wipe out cancerous cells. The institution is now looking for new ways to improve the treatment.

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