What are the partner centers of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy?
The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy is an unprecedented collaboration between the country’s leading immunologists and cancer centers — Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Stanford Medicine, the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of California, San Francisco, the University of Pennsylvania and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
What is Cancer Immunotherapy?
Cancer immunotherapy is one of the most important medical advances of our time, and the first approach with the potential to generate long-lasting regressions for all types and stages of cancer. It harnesses the body’s own powerful immune system and mobilizes its highly refined disease-fighting arsenal to eliminate cancer cells. The immune system produces specialized disease-fighting cells that circulate throughout the body, continually seeking out and destroying “foreign” agents. The similarity between cancer cells and healthy tissues blindfolds the immune system, which allows cancer to elude detection. Cancer immunotherapies overwhelm cancer’s evasive strategies, to ensure that a powerful, precise and adaptable immune attack is focused on tumors anywhere in the body.
What will the Parker Institute’s research focus on?
The Parker Institute’s research efforts will span the entire field of cancer immunology, but the team will initially make big bets on three major cross-cutting collaborative research projects:
Best-in-class T-cells: In cell-based therapies known as CAR-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell) or TCR (T-cell Receptor) therapy, the immune system’s main anti-cancer warriors, T-cells, are harvested from a patient’s blood and genetically engineered to target proteins or peptides that are abundant in the patient’s tumor. Billions of these modified cells are returned to the patient’s bloodstream, where the cells seek out and attack tumors. Parker Institute scientist Carl June, MD, pioneered CAR-T therapy for acute lymphoid leukemia (ALL), which has been enormously successful: over 90 percent of ALL patients receiving CAR-T therapy achieved complete remission. The Parker Institute will develop laboratory and clinical studies that aim to identify the pathways and factors that modulate T-cell activity and survival, and develop a new generation of more effective T-cell therapies.
Checkpoint Blockade Non-Responder Biomarkers & Therapeutics: “Checkpoint inhibitor” drugs “release the breaks” that the immune system has in place to prevent overreactions, so the immune system can attack cancers. First-generation drugs that target CTLA-4 and another checkpoint molecule called PD-1 have achieved unprecedented responses in melanoma, lung, and kidney cancers, and are being developed for virtually every other type of tumor. The Parker Institute team will research novel pathways and synergistic combination treatments to improve patient response rates and expand the treatment to more types of cancer.
Tumor Antigen Discovery: Immune-boosting drugs include vaccines, therapeutic viruses, and substances designed to stimulate the immune system to recognize and more potently attack a patient’s tumors. The Parker Institute team will use advanced DNA sequencing, antigenic peptide discovery efforts and immune monitoring technologies to identify self and mutated proteins as novel antigens for tumor targeting, and then develop vaccines and CAR/TCR therapies against these targets. This could improve the effectiveness and broaden the applicability of vaccines and cellular therapies to many additional types of cancer.