University of Pennsylvania researchers nab grant for CAR-T prostate cancer test

Prostate Cancer
Prostate Cancer cells (Penn Medicine)

The University of Pennsylvania, which has helped pioneer cell therapy approaches to blood cancers, has nabbed an ACGT grant to help battle solid tumors.

The research team has been handed a $500,000 grant from Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT), and follows on from the 2004 grant it gave Penn’s Carl June, M.D., one of the predominate scientists involved in CAR-T research.

His work helped pave the work for this type of cell therapy to halt a number of blood cancers, but the latest grant is geared toward its next-gen work: Solid tumors. This has proven a much harder nut to crack for CAR-T, but the Penn U. scientists are hoping this grant will help them on their way.  

The ACGT grant was awarded to Joseph Fraietta, Ph. D, assistant professor of microbiology and a T-cell biologist with expertise in tumor immunology and translational medicine, and Naomi Haas, M.D., director of the Prostate and Kidney Cancer Program, associate professor of medicine.

“The goal of the ACGT-funded study is to overcome prostate cancer’s stubborn resistance to CAR T-cell therapy,” the University said in a statement.  

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Drs. Fraietta and Haas are exploring approaches for re-engineering T-cells to enable them to induce safe, long-term remission for advanced, metastatic prostate cancer patients.

“The grant from ACGT will help us advance our clinical work in a very novel way,” said Dr. Fraietta. “If we can unlock the epigenetic code that controls the fate and function of T-cells, it could be a game changer.”

Both Haas and Fraietta will explore the connection between nutrient availability and epigenetic programming, and how these factors influence the viability of T-cells and their anti-tumor functionality.

“For so many years, chemotherapy, radiation and surgery were the traditional treatments for cancer. For prostate cancer, there’s also hormone therapy,” said Honeycutt. “Unfortunately, as the cancer progresses, it often stops responding to these traditional treatments. New cell and gene therapy approaches like the ones Drs. Fraietta and Haas are employing offer new hope to all cancer patients. ACGT has been dedicated to funding innovative science that harnesses the power of cell and gene therapy and transforms how cancer is treated. The work of Drs. Fraietta and Haas is a great example of this promise.”