The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research has announced a $12 million grant to the University of Pennsylvania to establish a center focused on enhancing understanding of the connections between advances in radiation therapy, important signaling pathways in cancer, and immune cells.
The Mark Foundation Center for Immunotherapy, Immune Signaling, and Radiation will bring together cross-departmental teams of basic scientists and clinical researchers to work on projects focused on how the signaling pathways elicited by radiation therapy can be exploited therapeutically to enable the immune system to recognize and eradicate cancer. Over the next five years, the center will work to identify genetic regulators and vulnerabilities associated with the resistance to treatment that results from the chronic interferon/anti-viral signaling induced by low doses of radiation over the course of many weeks. To that end, scientists will determine whether ultra-high doses of radiation over very short intervals affect cancer cells, immune cells, and normal tissues differently, with the goal of designing a regimen with improved efficacy and reduced toxicity.
"These projects have the chance to change the paradigm when it comes to cancer treatment," said Andy J. Minn, associate professor of radiation oncology in the Perelman School of Medicine. "Understanding important and potentially targetable mechanisms of immunotherapy resistance and how to use novel radiation therapies to enhance immunotherapies carries enormous benefits for patients."
The Mark Foundation also recently established the Mark Foundation Institute for Integrated Cancer Medicine at the University of Cambridge and previously collaborated with Cancer Research UK and Evotec.
"The results of this exciting project could have enormous significance for cancer patients," said Mark Foundation CEO Michele Cleary. "This multidisciplinary effort is well positioned for success, and we expect these leading researchers will uncover novel insights into cancer biology that will substantially expand the options for treatments with better efficacy and minimal toxicities. We look forward to working with this powerhouse team over the next five years and beyond."