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City of Hope receives $5.2 million from CIRM
by Kelsey Kaustinen  |  Email the author


DUARTE, Calif.—City of Hope has announced the receipt of a $5,217,004 early translational research award by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to support development of a T cell-based immunotherapy that redirects patients' immune responses to target glioma stem cells. In total, City of Hope has received more than $49.7 million in CIRM grant support since the organization began announcing awards in 2006.  
"The CIRM grant will help us to build a targeted T cell therapy against glioma that can offer lasting protection, determine the best way to deliver the treatment, establish an efficient process to manufacture these T cells for treatment, and get approval for a human clinical trial," Behnam Badie, M.D., director of the Brain Tumor Program, said in a press release.  
Glioma is a type of brain tumor that is prone to recurrence and among the more difficult types to treat, with a five-year survival rate of less than 20 percent for patients with malignant gliomas. The low survival rate is due mainly to the resilience of tumor-initiating cancer stem cells, malignant cells that, like normal stem cells, can reproduce indefinitely. Glioma stem cells display a high resistance to chemotherapy and radiation therapies, and the American Cancer Society predicts that more than 22,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a brain tumor this year, with 13,700 fatalities.
"In this research, we are genetically engineering a central memory T cell that targets proteins expressed by glioma stem cells. Central memory T cells have the potential to establish a persistent, lifelong immunity to help prevent brain tumors from recurring," Stephen J. Forman, M.D., said in a press release. Forman is the Francis and Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and director of the T Cell Immunotherapy Research Laboratory.  
City of Hope researchers have previously identified several proteins that offer promising targets for the development of cancer immunotherapies, including interleukin 13 receptor alpha 2, which is found on the surface of glioma cells, and CD19, an active protein in lymphoma and leukemia cells. Both therapies are currently in Phase I clinical trials. Forman will be the principal investigator for the newly granted study, which will work on the development of a T cell that can target the different proteins expressed by glioma stem cells. Christine Brown, Ph.D., associate research professor, will be the co-principal investigator, with Badie and Michael Barish, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Neurosciences, serving as co-investigators.
"Because cancer stem cells are heterogeneous, our proposed therapy will target multiple antigens to cast as wide a net as possible over this malignant stem cell population," said Brown in a press release.  
City of Hope is a collaborative partner in two other CIRM-funded projects as well. Larry Couture, Ph.D., senior vice president of City of Hope's Sylvia R. & Isador A. Deutch Center for Applied Technology Development and director of the Center for Biomedicine & Genetics, is working with Stanford University and Children's Hospital of Orange County Research Institute on their projects.  
The grant program supports projects in initial stages of identifying drugs or cell types with therapeutic potential, and these awards are the CIRM's first collaboratively funded research projects with China, the federal government of Australia and a new project with Germany.      
SOURCE: City of Hope press release
Code: E05301201



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