City of Hope researchers and colleagues from the California Institute of Technology received a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation to continue a collaborative study investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying lymphoma.
The study focuses on developing targeted, less-toxic treatments for the disease based on short interfering RNA (siRNA) technology that can inhibit the protein products of specific genes. The W. M. Keck Foundation previously funded the first phase of the lymphoma study in 2006 with a one-year, $450,000 pilot grant.
Lymphoma develops in the immune system and is the fifth most common type of cancer in the United States. Even though control of the disease is possible through current standard treatment with radiation and chemotherapy, relapse is common and more effective therapies are needed.
Researchers began testing a novel compound composed of a polymer created by Caltech researcher Mark Davis, Ph.D., and an engineered antibody developed at City of Hope to see if the compound could attack only lymphoma cells without disturbing healthy cells. Such targeted, less invasive therapies also may help lessen the side effects many patients experience with standard treatment.
“Collaborative studies with institutions like Caltech allow great scientific minds to share information and open doors to innovative discoveries in the battle against cancer,” said Michael A. Friedman, M.D., president and chief executive officer of City of Hope. “The generosity of the W.M. Keck Foundation will enable more advanced research to develop better treatments for lymphoma patients that also may prove potent against other types of cancer.”
The multidisciplinary team is targeting the polymers — molecules that do not stimulate the immune system and have very low toxicity — directly into the cancer cells. Once inside, they deliver their payload of siRNA, which disrupts the genetic coding in cancer cells to either kill them or render them incapable of multiplying.
“We have been able to gain a better understanding of lymphoma though our research with Caltech, and have identified targets for potential new lymphoma therapies,” said Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis and Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and the study’s principal investigator. “There is a real need for improved treatments because not all lymphoma patients are able to tolerate chemotherapy and radiation. Our older patients, in particular, would greatly benefit from new targeted therapies.”
Forman leads a team of Caltech and City of Hope investigators. Caltech investigators include Davis, the Warren and Katharine Schlinger Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Scott Fraser, Ph.D., the Anna L. Rosen Professor of Biology and Professor of Bioengineering and director of the Caltech Brain Imaging Center. City of Hope investigators include John Rossi, Ph.D., Lidow Family Research Chair in the Department of Molecular Biology, Andrew Raubitschek, M.D., chair of the Department of Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology, David Colcher, Ph.D., deputy director of the Division of Radioimmunotherapy Research, Richard Jove, Ph.D., director of Beckman Research Institute, and Hua Yu, Ph.D., professor of the Department of Cancer Immunotherapeutics & Tumor Immunology.
Based in Los Angeles, the W. M. Keck Foundation was established in 1954 by the late W.M. Keck, founder of the Superior Oil Company. The foundation’s grantmaking focuses primarily on pioneering efforts in the areas of medical research, science and engineering.