Researcher Spotlight: Raghuveer Ranganathan, MD

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Though CAR T-cell therapy has been successful for many patients with Non-Hodgkin lymphomas, the nature of the two versions currently approved by the FDA can have some severe side effects, as the CAR T-cells are programmed to attack not just the malignant cancer cells, but normal B-cells in the immune system that also have the CD19 biomarker, which can leave a patient with a compromised immune system. Dr. Ranganathan’s Career Development Award project will evaluate a CAR T-cell therapy that is programmed to target the light chain part of surface immunoglobulin B cells. This type of CAR T-cell would eradicate all malignant cells, which express the targeted light chain, but would spare normal B cells, which don’t express the target, leaving a patient’s immune system relatively intact. “As a result, I hope to be introducing a more beneficial version of CAR T-cell therapy where patients will still have the same chance of curing their lymphoma as current CAR T-cell therapies, but they’ll instead keep their immune system relatively unharmed and minimize their risk for infection,” he says.

Dr. Ranganathan received his MD from Temple University and completed his Internal Medicine residency at Drexel University. He then underwent a research fellowship specializing in CAR T-cell therapy at the University of Pennsylvania prior to joining his current clinical Hematology/Oncology fellowship at the University of North Carolina. He became interested in lymphoma research because of the wide variety of subtypes and the breadth of knowledge required to understand and treat them. “What drew me to my particular CAR T-cell project,” he adds, “was 1) the chance to continue building upon my experience in CAR T-cell research and 2) the originality of how the project was targeting a unique antigen that can be applied across multiple lymphoma subtypes.”

Dr. Ranganathan further notes, “The time spent on the LRF Clinical Investigator Career Developmental Award will be hugely beneficial in terms of both my research progress and overall career development. First, it provides critical financial support to allow me to bring the preclinical research I’ve worked on over the past 3 years to the clinical bedside. Second, it will provide me protected time to focus on additional lymphoma-centric CAR T-cell research which can also be translated to the clinic. I wish to mold my career into becoming one of the thought leaders for cellular immunotherapy directed at lymphomas, and the LRF will be playing an indispensable role in providing me with avenues to achieve that goal.”