Winship advances cancer cellular therapy

Madhav Dhodapkar, holder of the Anise McDaniel Brock Chair, is leading Winship's work in advancing cellular therapies.
Photo by Billy Howard

Harnessing the body's own immune system is one of the most promising approaches to cancer treatment. Our immune systems are meant to recognize and destroy invading pathogens, but our immune cells often don’t have what they need to carry out that function with cancer cells.

Illustration of a T cell.

Keith Chambers/Science Photo Library

Now, Winship Cancer Institute has a grant to advance research in cancer immunotherapies and move them quickly from the laboratory into clinical trials and approved treatments. The award, a supplement to Winship's National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center Support grant, will enable researchers at Winship and Georgia Institute of Technology to create interdisciplinary teams of translational cancer immunologists, basic immunologists, and biomedical engineers who will work together to improve cell therapy for patients with multiple myeloma, a hematologic malignancy characterized by the growth of clonal plasma cells in bone marrow.

One focus will be on chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR T-cell) therapies. Currently, CAR T-cell therapies are approved by the Food and Drug Administration for patients with certain types of leukemia and non-Hodgkin lymphoma but are only available for myeloma patients in clinical trials.

Winship Cancer Institute is among a handful of cancer centers in the United States to receive this award.

Madhav Dhodapkar, director of the Winship Center for Cancer Immunology, will serve as project leader. Co-investigators include Max Cooper, professor in the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and the Emory Vaccine Center, and Krishnendu Roy, director of the Center for ImmunoEngineering at Georgia Tech.

Dhodapkar says "The collaborative effort between Winship and Georgia Tech will focus on three unmet needs to improve cell therapy of myeloma: new platforms for antigen targeting, preclinical humanized modeling of cell therapy, and scalable manufacturing."

The goal of Winship and Georgia Tech investigators is to use the supplemental funding from the NCI to initiate Phase I clinical trials, which are the first phase for testing new therapies in humans. To support those efforts, a new cellular therapy lab will be opening soon in the Emory University Hospital Tower.

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