Grant Finder

LLS investigators are outstanding scientists at the forefront of leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma research at centers throughout the world. Search to see the many research projects that LLS is currently funding.

Grant: 6480-16 | Translational Research Program (TRP):

Location:New York University School of Medicine, Boston, Massachusetts 02241-415026

Year: 2015

Project Title: Therapeutic Targeting Of The Bone Marrow ALL Niche

Project Summary:

Although much is known about the cell-intrinsic factors that support leukemia, little is understood about the role of the leukemia microenvironment (niche) in distinct tissues, including the bone marrow, one of the initial sites of acute leukemia initiation. We were able to show that in pediatric T cell acute leukemia (T-ALL), cancer cells are in direct, stable contact with bone marrow niche cells that express the chemokine CXCL12. We have also shown that CXCL12 inhibition severely impeded tumor growth, leading to prolonged disease remission, suggesting that targeting the chemokine: receptor interaction could be a future therapeutic. Here we present data that extensively support this hypothesis, visualizing for the first time leukemia:niche interactions in live animals and targeting niche functions. In this application we target the leukemia microenvironment using compounds (i.e. CXCL12 inhibitors) currently on clinical trials and we discover novel factors expressed by the T-ALL niche that can be targeted pharmacologically. This is one of the first studies that proposes the targeting of tumor microenvironment in acute leukemia.

Grant: 6500-16 | Translational Research Program (TRP):

Location:Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Cleveland, Ohio 44106-7037

Year: 2015

Project Title: Novel Approach For NK Cell Therapy For Hematopoietic Malignancies

Project Summary:

Despites advances in drug development, a large number of patients with blood cancers still lack effective therapies. Instead of drug therapy, an alternative strategy that has shown promise for blood cancers is to utilize cell therapy. In this case donor blood cells which can target cancer cells are isolated, expanded, and infused back into the patient. In particular, one promising donor blood cell type used for cell therapy is Natural Killer (NK) cells. We have identified a novel method to greatly enhance the efficacy and feasibility of utilizing these NK cells as a therapy for multiple types of cancer that shows high potential in cell and animal based studies. In this proposal, we will further develop this strategy in hopes of initiating clinical testing in the near future.

Grant: 5444-16 | Career Development Program (CDP):

Location:Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts 02241-3149

Year: 2015

Project Title: Oncogenic Genome Architecture By The B-cell Tumor Virus EBV

Project Summary:

Epstein Barr Virus (EBV), the first human tumor virus discovered, causes lymphomas in HIV infected patients, transplant recipients, children co-infected with malaria, and increasingly, also with aging-associated immune senescence. In these contexts, EBV is an important causative agent of Burkitt lymphoma, Hodgkin lymphoma, and diffuse large B-cell lymphomas. EBV-associated lymphomas are a major cause of death in HIV infected people, even those on medications that successfully block HIV replication. EBV encodes a series of proteins that subvert the normal checks and balances on cell growth, and that transform infected B-cells into immortalized, continuously dividing cells. In this study, we will use cutting edge technologies to identify how viral proteins interact with and change the architecture of the human B-cell genome, to drive abnormal cell growth. We will then use recently devised genetic techniques to test the importance of virus effects on the B-cell genome. In particular, we will determine whether undoing viral effects at specific genome sites can successfully block EBV-infected B-cell growth and survival. If successful, this study will provide important insights into how EBV drives malignant B-cell growth, may highlight mechanisms operative in other types of B-cell lymphomas, and will identify novel therapeutic targets.

Grant: 0862-15 | Quest for CURES (QFC):

Location:The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3052

Year: 2015

Project Title: Circulating Tumour DNA To Monitor Treatment Response And Resistance In Mantle Cell Lymphoma

Project Summary:

Molecular approaches for monitoring therapeutic efficacy have enormous potential to transform the management of haematological malignancies including MCL. The analysis of ctDNA in plasma represents a unique opportunity in this context; ctDNA acts as a ‘liquid biopsy’ alternative to tissue biopsies allowing patient specific cancer mutations to be tracked in real-time during clinical management.  This provides a noninvasive opportunity to monitor tumour dynamics, treatment responses and the presence of minimal residual disease.  Moreover, serial ctDNA analysis allows the evolving genomic landscape of the tumour to be studied, thus providing a powerful tool to define, understand and eventually overcome the molecular events that underpin resistance to current and emerging therapies. 

MCL typically responds transiently to frontline therapy. Two emerging therapeutic agents, ibrutinib and ABT-199, are considered the most effective new drugs for MCL, and the combination has the potential to eradicate all detectable disease. To investigate the role of ctDNA as a molecular biomarker for disease monitoring in MCL we propose to utilize this novel methodology on plasma collected within a clinical trial of ibrutinib and ABT-199. The study has potential to provide a new strategy for minimal residual disease monitoring in MCL and aims to provide key insights into the mechanisms of acquired treatment resistance to these novel therapeutic agents.   

Grant: 1333-16 | Career Development Program (CDP):

Location:Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University, San Francisco, California 94144-4253

Year: 2015

Project Title: Pre-Clinical Development Of Monoclonal And Bispecific Antibodies Targeting MDS/AML Stem Cells

Project Summary:

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) are cancers of the blood that cause significant clinical problems and in many cases, death. Recent discoveries have determined that these diseases are driven by abnormal blood stem cells that must be eliminated in order to cure patients. One well-established method to target cancer cells is through the use of specific antibodies that enable the immune system to clear the cancer cells or disrupt the cancer cells directly. In our previous work, we identified antibody targets on the outer surface of the AML and MDS stem cells including CD47, TIM3, and CD99. We initially focused on targeting of CD47 with blocking anti-CD47 antibodies that enable removal of AML stem cells by the immune system, and synergized with second cancer-specific antibodies to clear disease. We have now generated antibodies specific for TIM3 and CD99, and here propose the pre-clinical development of single and dual-specific antibodies against these targets. Our specific aims are to: (1) investigate targeting of AML stem cells with anti-TIM3 and anti-CD99 antibodies; (2) develop dual-specific antibodies targeting CD47, TIM3, and/or CD99 and assess their activity; and (3) conduct pre-clinical development of the single and dual-specific antibodies. Ultimately, we hope to identify lead antibodies for downstream clinical development.

Grant: 6496-16 | Translational Research Program (TRP):

Location:The Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6205

Year: 2015

Project Title: A Phase 2 Trial Of The Novel Toll-Like Receptor Agonist Resiquimod For Cutaneous T-cell Lymphoma

Project Summary:

Cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) is a malignancy of helper T lymphocytes with skin-trafficking characteristics. Long-term remissions during therapy remain elusive and patients who present with advanced stages of CTCL have a poor prognosis. Thus, there is still a critical unmet need for new therapeutic approaches. In that regard, we have developed significant in vitro data that the novel Toll-like receptor 7/8 agonist, resiquimod, which is known to be a potent activator of the innate immune response, can markedly boost critical anti-tumor immune responses among patients with poor prognostic CTCL. Thus, a phase I open-label trial of skin applied resiquimod gel for the treatment of patients with stage IA-IIA CTCL was recently completed by the P.I. 12 highly treatment resistant patients (1 stage 1A; 10 stage IB; 1 stage IIA) who had failed on average more than 6 previous treatments applied 0.06% or 0.03% resiquimod gel. In an unprecedented manner, quite high response rates were achieved with 11 of 12 (2 CR, 9 PR) having decreased or resolved itching and clearing of treated target lesions, and, notably, improvement or resolution in non-treated distant lesions. Peripheral blood analysis demonstrated that topical skin therapy was associated with stimulation of circulating immune cells in many subjects tested, suggesting good absorption through the skin with systemic immune effects associated with topical therapy. Analysis of immune cells isolated from skin biopsies before and after treatment demonstrated a dense influx of killer T cells indicating a brisk host anti-tumor response induced by therapy. Quite uniquely, a highly sensitive assay demonstrated elimination of the malignant cells from resolving treated lesions. These results suggest that topical resiquimod induces systemic immune activation, is highly efficacious in the treatment of resistant CTCL skin lesions and leads to regression of both treated and distant, untreated lesions, and, importantly, results in possible elimination of the malignant cells. The P.I. has been provided the drug for a more advanced phase II trial. During this study, the investigators will have the opportunity to more fully elucidate the overall effectiveness of resiquimod, the ability to augment systemic immunity with this unique topical agent, and the ability to eradicate minimal residual disease not only within skin lesions of CTCL, but possibly within the peripheral blood compartment as well, as significantly, our patients with complete responses have remained in remission for more than 12 months.

Grant: 6484-16 | Translational Research Program (TRP):

Location:Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322-4250

Year: 2015

Project Title: Development Of A Novel FLT3 Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitor With Activity Against D835Y And F691L Mutant Proteins

Project Summary:

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is the second most common cancer in adults and is an aggressive disease with 5 year overall survival rates of less than 30%. Traditional chemotherapies are relatively non-specific and treatment often results in a variety of toxic side-effects that can be devastating, both in older patients (> 65 years of age) where the incidence of death as a result of treatment approaches 30% and in children where severe, long-term, irreversible damage as a result of exposure to high-dose chemotherapy can have a significant health impact over a lifetime. For these reasons, new therapies for patients with AML are needed. Ideally, these therapies will specifically target cancer cells and will have fewer and/or less severe side effects compared to current therapies. One such target is Fms-like tyrosine kinase 3 (FLT3). In 30% of patients with AML, a genetic mutation results in abnormal activation FLT3 and the presence of activating mutations in FLT3 is associated with a worse prognosis. Therapies targeting FLT3 (e.g. quizartinib) have been developed and are effective in patients with AML, but do not work in all cases and/or can cause severe depletion of normal blood cells. Also, many patients develop resistance to these agents during treatment. New therapies targeting FLT3 are needed to address these limitations and to provide options for patients whose tumors are resistant to current FLT3 inhibitors. We have discovered a new and highly effective inhibitor of FLT3 called UNC2371. UNC2371 can be taken orally and is well-tolerated in animals with few and manageable side effects. Treatment with UNC2371 slows leukemia progression and prolongs survival by more than two-fold in a mouse model of FLT3-dependent AML and inhibits FLT3 mutant proteins that are resistant to other FLT3-targeted therapies. Based on these observations, UNC2371 is being developed for clinical use. This proposal describes studies to test whether UNC2371 is effective in cell culture and animal models. If successful, the results will be used to apply to the FDA for approval to conduct clinical trials to see if UNC2371 is safe and effective for patients with FLT3-dependent AML that does not respond to other therapies. Because these studies may directly enable clinical trials, they have the potential to improve both the length and quality of life for patients with AML.

 

Pages