Larry Kwak, M.D., Ph.D., Receives Grant for Promising Lymphoma Work

January 12, 2018 | by Letisia Marquez

City of Hope’s quest to deliver unique immunotherapeutics for the treatment of mantle cell lymphoma recently received a boost in funding from the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)

Larry W. Kwak, M.D., Ph.D., vice president and cancer center associate director for Translational Research & Developmental Therapeutics, director of the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center and holder of the Dr. Michael Friedman Professorship in Translational Medicine at City of Hope, received a $2.5 million award from LLS, the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to fighting blood cancer. LLS funded Kwak’s research project thanks to The Sarah Cannon Fund at The HCA Foundation. City of Hope has committed a further $2.5 million to support Kwak’s work with mantle cell lymphoma.
 
City of Hope’s leading-edge research in finding new treatment options for blood cancers wouldn’t be possible without the support of such organizations as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,” Kwak said. “We are also deeply grateful for the continued support of Toni and Emmet Stephenson, who enabled the preliminary studies supporting this competitive application.”
 
The grant from LLS supports Kwak’s work studying novel immunotherapies to treat mantle cell lymphoma. His team’s innovative work at the Toni Stephenson Lymphoma Center includes developing new antibody-based therapeutics to control mantle cell lymphoma. The award also allows for exploration of the use of combining CAR T cell immunotherapy, which is already approved for another type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, with targeted agents such as ibrutinib.
 
Kwak will serve as the director for three mantle cell lymphoma research projects funded by the award, including those of Stephen Forman, M.D., Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and director, T Cell Therapeutics Research Laboratory; and Markus Müschen, M.D., Ph.D., founding chair of the Department of Systems Biology, who holds The Norman and Sadie Lee Foundation Professorship in Pediatrics. Investigators collaborating on the three projects include: Annie Moradian, Ph.D., of California Institute of Technology, David Weinstock, M.D., of Dana Farber Cancer Institute, and  Elizabeth Budde,M.D., Ph.D., Suzette Blanchard, Ph.D., Robert Chen, M.D., Lu Chen, Ph.D., Vu Nguyen Ngo, Ph.D., Hong Qin, Ph.D., and Xiuli Wang, Ph.D., of City of Hope.
 
Among the 72,000 new cases per year of non-Hodgkin lymphomas reported in the United States, approximately 4,000 of them are mantlee cell lymphoma. Lymphomas are cancers in which white blood cells in the lymph nodes become malignant and grow uncontrollably. Mantle cell lymphoma (MCL) is one of more than 100 different types of lymphoma. It is a particularly aggressive disease, with a short remission to standard therapies and a median patient overall survival of four to five years.
 
“Despite advances in the treatment of MCL, patients with this disease face a challenging prognosis,” said Louis J. DeGennaro, Ph.D., LLS president and CEO. “LLS and Sarah Cannon share a commitment to advancing therapies for patients facing blood cancers and providing access to the latest treatments close to home. We know considerably more about the molecular basis of MCL now compared to 10 years ago, and we have the potential to further accelerate new treatment options through these research efforts for MCL patients.”
 
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