2010

Nabil Ahmed MD, MPH

Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX Associate Professor, Center for Cell & Gene Therapy

Research Focus: Cancer Stem Cell Directed Therapy

Cancer Type: Brain Cancer

Award: Young Investigator

Glioblastoma [GBM] is the most common brain cancer and remains largely incurable. The recent identification of chemotherapy and radiotherapy resistant stem cells in GBM’s may explain in part why conventional therapies are ineffective and open the door to an alternative like gene-based therapies as a new paradigm for treatment. Immunotherapy, one of the most promising forms of gene therapy, deploys a re-engineering of a patient’s own tumor cells to trigger the immune system’s T cells to attack the cancer. This may be more effective with GBM stem cells because immune-mediated destruction does not rely on the conventional mechanism of cell death. The treatment may also be far safer as the HER2 tumor protein is positive in greater than 80% of GBM’s but not present in other brain cells, making it an attractive target for immunotherapy. In previous laboratory research, Dr. Ahmed has shown that the proposed treatment is effective and also induces remission. Next step is to evaluate clinically the objective of proving both efficacy and safety in patients with this form of brain cancer. It will also be important to track response over time to ensure that tumors do not recur. Some limitation to efficacy has been previously observed due to the inhibitory tumor environment: GBM’s contain high levels of STAT3, a protein not only necessary for the cancer’s survival but one that also resists cell death by expressing T-cell suppressive factors. This response must be overcome.

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