City of Hope researcher receives grant for new approach against leukemia

CONTACT:
Denise Heady
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DUARTE, Calif., July 17, 2014 — More than 40 percent of patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) will relapse despite receiving aggressive chemotherapy for the disease. A new therapeutic approach, using immune cells known as T cells, could significantly improve their odds. In recognition of the potential impact of this approach, the work has just received a $450,000 grant from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

Elizabeth Budde, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope, received The Jake Wetchler Foundation for Innovative Pediatric Cancer Research-Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Clinical Investigator award, which will support a three-year study of immunotherapy treatment for AML.

“Support such as this generous award from the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation and The Jake Wetchler Foundation for Innovative Pediatric Cancer Research is critical to our clinical research efforts,” said Steven T. Rosen, M.D., provost and chief scientific officer at City of Hope. “The project that Dr. Budde has developed will expand the field of T cell immunotherapy in a very significant way and extend the benefit of treatment to patients with few options. This award is an important and prestigious recognition of the quality of work at City of Hope.”
 
Budde leads the research under the mentorship of Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis and Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation at City of Hope.
 
AML develops when abnormal white blood cells grow so rapidly in the bone marrow that they interfere with normal blood cell development. Currently, patients with AML have only one option to cure the disease: a blood stem cell, or bone marrow, transplant. Because many patients fail to achieve disease remission, they are not candidates for transplant. Thus, doctors and researchers have been desperately searching for other treatment options that could serve as bridges to transplant or even be curative on their own. 
 
In Budde’s approach, a patient’s own T cells are modified to destroy AML cells. Although normal T cells target a variety of foreign or abnormal cells, Budde’s modified T cells are reprogrammed to specifically and efficiently target and kill leukemia cells.
 
The grant will also help Budde find ways to boost the potency of the T cells and make the therapy more effective.
 
“[These studies] have the potential to change the treatment paradigm and significantly improve the cure rate for patients with leukemia in the future,” said Budde.
 
About the award
The Damon Runyon Clinical Investigator Award supports independent young physician-scientists conducting disease-oriented research that demonstrates a high level of innovation and creativity. The goal is to support the best young physician-scientists doing work aimed at improving the practice of cancer medicine. The Jake Wetchler Foundation for Innovative Pediatric Cancer Research aims to fight pediatric cancer by acting as an innovation incubator, funding leading-edge research and launching breakthrough ideas.

About City of Hope
City of Hope is a leading research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Designated as a comprehensive cancer center, the highest recognition bestowed by the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope is also a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, with research and treatment protocols that advance care throughout the nation. City of Hope’s main hospital is located in Duarte, Calif., just northeast of Los Angeles, with community clinics in southern California. It is ranked as one of "America's Best Hospitals" in cancer by U.SNews & World Report. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a pioneer in the fields of bone marrow transplantation and genetics. For more information, visit www.cityofhope.org or follow City of Hope on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Breakthroughs or Flickr.
                                                                     
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