LRF's Newest Grantees Fall 2011 - The Future of Lymphoma Research  

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The Lymphoma Research Foundation (LRF) is pleased to introduce our seven newest grantees! In the summer of 2011, LRF’s Scientific Advisory Board reviewed applications for two different programs: Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL) Exploratory/Developmental Grants and Follicular Lymphoma (FL) Clinical Studies Awards. Elias Campo, MD from the University of Barcelona, Samuel Katz, MD, PhD from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Izidore Lossos, MD, from the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami and Thomas Tedder, PhD, from Duke University Medical Center have each received two-year $200,000 MCL Exploratory/Developmental grants. In addition, Wing Chan, MD from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Laurence Cooper, MD from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and David Frank, MD, PhD from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute each received LRF’s FL Clinical Award, which will provide $450,000 over three years.

Mantle Cell Lymphoma Exploratory/Developmental Grants
In 2003, LRF started the Mantle Cell Lymphoma Initiative to accelerate the pace of research in mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). The MCL Exploratory/Developmental Grant is a new concept developed to fund researchers exploring, or seeking to develop, novel basic scientific ideas with a concentration on translational medicine. The LRF Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) reviewed applications especially in search of those which featured collaborations between basic and clinical investigators.

Elias Campo, MD
University of Barcelona; Barcelona, Spain
Identification of Somatic Mutations in Mantle Cell Lymphoma Using Next Generation Sequencing

Dr. Campo, director of the Center for Biomedical Diagnosis of Hospital Clínic de Barcelona, is an established lymphoma researcher, who also received an MCL Initiative Award from LRF in 2005. His research focuses on studying the heterogeneity of MCL tumors and deciphering why they behave differently in different patients. In addition, his team has been researching new drugs that may target the molecular alterations of MCL tumors. With this funding, Dr. Campo plans to work with a broad and multidisciplinary team of experts, including clinicians, pathologists, molecular biologists, bioinformaticians and others to be the first to sequence the entire genome of MCL. Until now, scientists have studied each target gene individually, but Dr. Campo hopes to elucidate the big picture by undertaking this project.

“We hope to find alterations in crucial genes that drive the progression of the disease,” he said. “Finding the alterations in the key genes will facilitate the use of the most appropriate drugs, or the development of new ones, which will target these molecular alterations.”

Samuel Katz, MD, PhD

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Boston, MA
Reactivating Apoptosis in Mantle Cell Lymphoma by Peptide Replacement of the Tumor Suppressor BIM

Dr. Katz graduated from Yale University with a combined Bachelors and Masters degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. He then completed an MD-PhD program studying transcription factors controlling blood cell development at Harvard Medical School. Going on to complete a residency in pathology and a fellowship in hematopathology at the Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dr. Katz currently works at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, where he studies cellular “suicide.” He notes that because cancer cells do not self-destruct as normal cells do, researchers are designing drugs to activate the cells' own "programmed death mechanisms.” Dr. Katz plans to use his funding to test this concept in MCL by attempting to restore a key portion of a pro-death protein called BIM, which is missing in a subset of MCL, to force the cancer cells to essentially kill themselves.

“I am excited to combine my experience in hematopathology and mouse modeling with new chemical biology strategies aimed at both identifying the root causes of refractory lymphoma and developing new targeted treatments,” he said.

Izidore S. Lossos, MD

Miller School of Medicine of the University of Miami; Miami, FL
New Immunotherapeutic Approaches to Mantle Cell Lymphoma

Dr. Lossos is Professor of Medicine and Head of Lymphoma program at the University of Miami in Florida. He received his medical degree from Hadassah School of Medicine, Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel. He completed his residency in internal medicine and fellowship in hematology at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem and postdoctoral fellowship with major emphasis on lymphoma at Stanford University. His research focus has been on pathogenesis of lymphoma, identification of molecular prognostic markers and development of new lymphoma therapies. Dr. Lossos has been an active member of LRF’s SAB and this is his first LRF grant. He plans to use the funds to study genetic alterations in MCL tumors. His goal is to determine the clinical relevance of the mutations and potentially develop new treatment options.

“This is a new immunological method to kill MCL cells and if our studies are successful, it should translate to a new clinical therapy and better outcomes for MCL patients,” he said.

Thomas Tedder, PhD
Duke University Medical Center; Durham, NC
Molecular Insights into MCL Immunotherapy

Dr. Tedder received his PhD in molecular cell biology from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and was a faculty member at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School before joining Duke University as a Professor of Immunology. His laboratory focuses primarily on understanding B-cell biology at the molecular level. By doing so, he can identify targets for new drugs that treat abnormal B-cell function. Dr. Tedder’s goal is to identify and dissect the functional cellular distinctions among B-cells, which will allow him to identify cellular origins of MCL and potentially reveal new therapeutic targets.

“We have identified a new class of antibody drugs that selectively targets a unique subset of B-cells that may represent the precursor cells for MCL,” he said. “This award will allow us to test this hypothesis and potentially move these drugs towards the clinic for the treatment of MCL and other non-Hodgkin lymphomas, as well as other malignancies.”

Follicular Lymphoma Clinical Studies Award
A mainstay of LRF’s grant portfolio, the Follicular Lymphoma (FL) Clinical Studies Award funds investigators who research the pathogenesis, diagnosis or treatment of follicular lymphoma. Examples of eligible projects include fundamental mechanisms of molecular pathogenesis, molecular and genetic profiling of patient-derived samples, microenvironment studies, systems biology approaches, identification of biomarkers, immunological/immunotherapy studies, experimental therapeutics and correlative studies for clinical trials. LRF has awarded about $7 million in FL Clinical Studies Awards since 2006. 

Wing C. Chan, MD
University of Nebraska Medical Center; Omaha, NE
Oncogenic mutations in follicular and transformed follicular lymphoma

Dr. Chan, a longtime LRF SAB member and respected lymphoma investigator, has earned his second FL Clinical Studies Award from the Foundation to build upon research he has been conducting on genetic mutations in FL. Collaborating with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Molecular Profiling Project (LLMPP), Dr. Chan and his team will utilize a vast tissue bank and clinical database to examine the spectrum of mutations present in FL. In doing so, Dr. Chan hopes to be able to use next-generation sequencing to further understand the pathogenesis, progression and transformation of the disease. Earning his MD from the University of Hong Kong, Dr. Chan completed his residency in pathology and fellowship in immunology at the University of Chicago.

“We fully believe that this investigation will help us identify novel targets to improve the treatment of follicular lymphoma patients, especially patients whose tumors have undergone transformations that would markedly worsen their prognoses,” he said.

Laurence Cooper, MD, PhD

University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; Houston, TX
Off-The-Shelf Immunotherapy For Follicular Lymphoma Infusing CD19-Specific T Cells

Expanding on the work he completed through a 2006 FL Clinical Studies Grant, Dr. Cooper will continue investigating adoptive immunotherapy for FL. More specifically, he will be looking at genetically modifying T-cells in order to kill FL cells and analyzing ways in which this method can be accomplished on the most effective timeline for
patients with recurrent disease. Dr. Cooper has conducted preliminary testing of this “off-the-shelf” immunotherapy method and proposes that, if successful, this project could lead to more successful immunotherapy treatment options for FL. Dr. Cooper earned his MD and PhD in immunology from Case Western Reserve University and went on to complete a residency in pediatrics at the University of Washington, Children’s Hospital and Regional Medical Center. From there he also completed post-doctoral training in immunology and a fellowship in pediatric hematology/oncology at the University of Washington, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

“It is hoped that as a result of LRF funding, we will have developed potent T-cells that can help treat follicular lymphoma by changing the paradigm to develop a platform where T-cells, for the first time, are applied as drugs,” Dr. Cooper wrote in his abstract.

David Frank, MD, PhD

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Identification and Targeting of Transcription Factor Pathways Activated in Follicular Lymphoma

A prior recipient of LRF funding to study chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), Dr. Frank focuses the majority of his research targeting signaling pathways for cancer therapy. He plans to use the funds from the FL Clinical Studies Award to study the gene regulation proteins, called transcription factors, which control cell growth to learn how to block the function of over-activated proteins. Dr. Frank is hopeful that once this technology is harnessed, it can be translated into effective targeted therapy and clinical trials for FL patients. Earning his MD and PhD in pharmacology from Yale University, Dr. Frank completed his residency at Yale-New Haven Hospital, where he was selected Chief Resident. He conducted post-doctoral training in intracellular signal transduction at Harvard Medical School and completed a fellowship in medical oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

“We are optimistic that the research to be conducted with the support of the LRF Follicular Lymphoma Clinical Studies Award will culminate in a clinical trial for patients with this form of lymphoma,” Dr. Frank said. “In addition, because the signaling pathways we study are activated in other forms of cancer as well, we are hopeful that this research will have a broader impact on the treatment of patients with cancer.”

September 2011

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