Hyundai Young Investigator Grant goes to Leo Wang, M.D., Ph.D.

September 15, 2017 | by Denise Heady

Leo Wang 1 - HHOW Leo Wang, M.D., Ph.D., getting handprinted by a City of Hope pediatric patient during the Hyundai Hope On Wheels signature Handprint Ceremony

When it comes to new and innovative cancer treatments, CAR-T cell therapy is leading the pack.  

CAR-T cell therapy works with immune cells taken from the bloodstream, which are reprogrammed to recognize and attack a specific protein, then reintroduced into the system.

At City of Hope, this type of immunotherapy has already shown promise for adults with blood cancers and advanced brain tumors.

Early clinical trials at City of Hope found that injecting reengineered CAR-T cells directly into the brain has the potential to be dramatically effective in the treatment of advanced brain tumors in adults.

Now, City of Hope researchers are using CAR-T cell therapy to treat pediatric patients with similarly destructive brain cancer.

“City of Hope has been fortunate enough and visionary enough to invest heavily in CAR-T therapy,” said Leo D. Wang, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in the departments of Immuno-Oncology and Pediatrics. “I hope that this type of therapy represents a new frontier in the treatment of pediatric cancers.”


To help further City of Hope’s research in CAR-T therapy, Wang, a dual-trained pediatric oncologist and scientist, was awarded with a $150,000 Hyundai Young Investigator Grant funded by the Hyundai Hope On Wheels program.

The award was given as part of Hyundai’s charitable efforts during National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. In September alone, Hyundai Hope On Wheels will award 40 research grants totaling $8.5 million to institutions nationwide. With this latest grant, Hyundai Hope On Wheels has awarded $350,000 to City of Hope.

“City of Hope is on the forefront of using CAR-T cells to treat pediatric brain tumors, and I am honored and thrilled to join the program and help bring that therapy into the clinic,” said Wang during Hyundai Hope On Wheels signature Handprint Ceremony at City of Hope.

During the ceremony, City of Hope pediatric patients dipped their hands in paint and placed their handprints on a white 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe — and on Wang’s lab coat.

These colorful handprints represent each patient's individual and collective journeys, hopes and dreams.

The CAR-T cell therapy program at City of Hope is spearheaded by Christine Brown, Ph.D., the Heritage Provider Network Professor in Immunotherapy and associate director of the T Cell Therapeutics Research Laboratory, and Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and director of the T cell Immunotherapy Laboratory.

“CAR-T cell therapy has significant potential to fight not just blood and bone marrow cancers, but a wide range of diseases for which patients need better treatment,” Forman said. “City of Hope is committed to maximizing the potential of this revolutionary therapy for the sake of patients here and around the world.”

For more information about the brain CAR-T program, please visit

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