Renewed SPORE grant helping ideas germinate

May 3, 2012 | by City of Hope Staff

One idea can change the world — especially when people from diverse perspectives work together to bring that idea to fruition.

National Cancer Institute logoCancer research can work that way. That’s why the National Cancer Institute (NCI) established a grant program to support Specialized Programs of Research Excellence, or SPOREs. These programs drive innovative studies involving both laboratory and clinical researchers targeting prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. The goal: rapidly move basic scientific findings into clinical use to benefit patients.

The NCI recently renewed City of Hope’s Lymphoma SPORE grant, continuing groundbreaking research that first was recognized with a SPORE award in 2004.

City of Hope is pursuing four main projects through its Lymphoma SPORE.

T-cells engineered to fight non-Hodgkin lymphoma T-cells are powerful immune system cells that fight disease. City of Hope scientists aim to re-engineer some of a lymphoma patient’s T cells so they target lymphoma cells and overcome the defenses that keep the lymphoma safe from the immune system. The treatment uses central memory T-cells, which potentially can provide a life-long immunity against lymphoma, preventing any relapse of the disease.

Avoiding treatment-related leukemia Sometimes lymphoma treatment can put a patient at risk of developing leukemia later. Better understanding how a patient’s genetic profile may influence that cancer risk could help physicians tailor lymphoma treatment to minimize the chance of developing therapy-related leukemia.

Strategies for overcoming relapsed disease Non-Hodgkin follicular lymphoma doesn’t give up easily; patients can have a high relapse rate and often must undergo many difficult treatments. Researchers are studying a protein that may help the immune system specifically target non-Hodgkin follicular lymphoma cells and protect patients against relapse.

Nanoparticles to infiltrate lymphoma cells Minute tubes of carbon atoms called nanoparticles — each a tiny fraction of a hair’s width — can carry a therapeutic molecule to lymphoma cells to block cancer-boosting genes. Turning off those genes may kill the cancer, but making sure those nanoparticles can get into cancer cells and drop off the therapy is tricky. This project aims to make delivery more certain.

More than 60 SPOREs throughout the U.S. currently focus on different organs and disease sites in the body – among them brain, breast, kidney and lung. City of Hope remains one of only five centers in the country who have been awarded a Lymphoma SPORE grant.

These research efforts also receive support from the Tim Nesvig Lymphoma Fellowship and Research Fund.

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