Michel Sadelain, Director of the Center for Cell Engineering, and Jedd Wolchok, Director of Immunotherapy Trial Development and Monitoring for Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy, have been appointed to a new Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) “Dream Team” dedicated to immunotherapy research. Immunotherapy treatments harness the body’s own immune system to attack cancer.
Two Approaches to Attacking Cancer
The Immunology Dream Team will pursue two research techniques. The first, being led by Dr. Wolchok, involves studying how a type of white blood cell called a T lymphocyte, or T cell, can kill cancer cells. Sometimes, the natural function of the T lymphocyte is blocked or not activated enough to attack cancer cells, allowing the cancer to grow. Part of the Dream Team’s focus will be to investigate ways to ensure that the T lymphocytes work properly in recognizing and killing cancer cells.
Another immunotherapy approach known as adoptive cell transfer (ACT) involves removing some of a patient’s T cells, enhancing their cancer-fighting abilities and growing them in the laboratory, and then infusing the enhanced cells back into the patient. This can provide a patient with an army of immune cells specifically programmed to fight against cancer. This part of the Dream Team’s research, led by Dr. Sadelain, will investigate several ways to use ACT as a cancer therapy.
Support for Translational Research
The new Dream Team is being funded jointly by SU2C, a nonprofit program that raises funds to accelerate the pace of translational research, and the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), a nonprofit that provides funding for cancer immunology research at every stage of discovery. The joint project, known as “Immunologic Checkpoint Blockade and Adoptive Cell Transfer in Cancer Therapy,” provides up to $10 million during a three-year period.
SU2C has awarded grants to a total of nine Dream Teams, which all together comprise more than 450 scientists at 87 institutions. Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Charles Sawyers, Chair of the Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, and President and CEO Craig Thompson are co-leaders on two other Dream Teams.