Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation has awarded inaugural Bio-Therapeutics Impact Grants to the Baylor College of Medicine, Georgia Health Sciences University Research Institute, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle in support of research on immunotherapy treatments for pediatric cancer.
The three-year, $1.5 million grant to Baylor will support the work of Leonid Metelitsa, associate professor of pediatrics, who is researching new forms of cancer immunotherapy to treat neuroblastoma, one of the most common solid tumors in children. Metelitsa and his colleagues will use the funds to develop and clinically test natural killer T (NKT) cells that have been engineered to selectively target cancer cells in neuroblastoma patients. Their research will include a phase I clinical trial of the tumor-specific NKT cells in patients with resistant or recurrent neuroblastoma, which has a survival rate of less than 40 percent.
"The results of this study will inform clinical development of NKT cell-based immunotherapy of neuroblastoma and have a broad applicability for other types of cancer," said Metelitsa.
Georgia Health Sciences University Research Institute will use its grant to fund a phase I clinical trial of the drug indoximod in combination with the chemotherapy drug temozolomide to treat children with progressive brain tumors, while the grant to the Hutchinson will support a clinical trial of a form of T-cell immunotherapy that targets the HA-1 protein in young leukemia patients who have experienced early relapse after undergoing hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.
Designed to advance the pace of innovative research with a focus on immunotherapy, the inaugural Bio-Therapeutics Impact Grants are the largest grants the foundation has awarded to date.