Leukemia Research

Research and Clinical Trials for Leukemia

At City of Hope, leukemia clinicians and researchers collaborate extensively to develop and evaluate new therapies for better survival and quality-of-life outcomes. Our patients have access to a wide variety of clinical trials including new chemotherapy and targeted therapies, hormone therapies with fewer side effects, novel surgical techniques, innovative radiation approaches and new prevention strategies.

These trials give current patients access to promising, leading-edge therapies and improve overall care for future patients worldwide. Visit our clinical trials page to learn more about current studies and their eligibility criteria.

Some of our current research projects include:

  • CAR T cell therapy: Immune system cells called T cells guard against disease; they can detect invaders such as bacteria and viruses and destroy them. City of Hope scientists are currently investigating to see how these cells can be reprogrammed to recognize and attack leukemia, as well.

    City of Hope is certified to administer tisagenlecleucel (commercial name Kymriah) chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy – the first CAR T cell therapy approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – to patients up to 25 years of age with B cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that is refractory or in second or later relapse.

    We are also the only institution in Southern California to currently offer both tisagenlecleucel and axicabtagene ciloleucel (commercial name Yescarta), the second CAR T cell therapy approved by the FDA, solidifying City of Hope’s position as a leader in this newest form of cancer immunotherapy.

    Tisagenlecleucel, a Novartis product, is a CAR T therapy and one-time treatment that uses a patient's own T cells to fight B cell precursor ALL that has resisted all treatment options or has relapsed a second or subsequent time. 
  • Enhanced subtype profiling: While leukemia is typically classified as one of four major groups, it is actually a collection of over a hundred abnormalities that lead to uncontrolled cell growth. Our researchers are actively studying these subtypes and whether they have specific genetic or molecular targets to focus therapy on.
  • New therapies for relapsed/refractory disease for patients who have undergone and failed standard treatments. These clinical trials may include novel agents developed at City of Hope, or new combinations or regimens of already-approved therapies that may be more effective.
  • Developing more tolerable regimens for patients who cannot withstand standard treatments such as older patients and those with comorbid conditions.
  • Investigating "leukemia stem cells" that allow the disease to relapse and grow following cancer treatment. By better understanding the biology and weaknesses of these cancer stem cells, scientists and clinicians can develop better treatments that produce lasting cures.
  • Enhance hematopoietic stem cell transplantation: While stem cell transplants can be a lifesaving procedure for leukemia patients, they also carry a risk of graft-versus-host disease (GvHD), in which the newly transplanted stem cells do not recognize the recipient’s body as their own and start producing an immune response against it, leading to chronic and potentially serious complications. To reduce the likelihood of GvHD and to improve transplant outcomes, City of Hope is researching new ways to classify and match stem cell donors and recipients.
  • Improving survivorship: City of Hope runs an ongoing long-term, follow-up program for bone marrow transplant recipients, which monitors them for chronic side effects and educates them on improving their quality of life based on their disease and the treatments they have received.

Gehr Family Center for Leukemia Research

Led by Guido Marcucci, M.D., and Anthony Stein, M.D., the Gehr Family Center for Leukemia Research at City of Hope seeks to further expand and broaden our world-renowned work in the research and treatment of acute myeloid leukemia, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, chronic myelogenous leukemia, myelodysplastic syndrome and myeloproliferative neoplasms. The center focuses on discovering new actionable molecular targets, developing novel targeted therapies and implementing these therapies in precision-medicine approaches.