2007

Ronald Levy MD

Stanford University, Stanford, CA Professor of Medicine, Oncology

Research Focus: Immunotherapy & Cancer Vaccines

Cancer Type: Lymphoma & Leukemia

Award: Clinical Investigator

2007-2010 Research Grant:
Mantle cell lymphoma carries the worst prognosis of any lymphoma. Treatment includes high-dose chemotherapy followed by stem cell transplant, which eliminates most of the lymphoma, but temporarily wipes out a patient’s immune system. Even with this aggressive therapy, residual lymphoma cells remain and cause the patients to recur within a few years. Novel approaches are needed to eliminate those residual lymphoma cells.

Gene therapy is amongst the most promising approaches being studied for the elimination of cancer, but a primary obstacle is the difficulty in delivering the therapeutic gene to a sufficient proportion of cancer cells. Our approach of using a gene-engineered lymphoma vaccine induces the patient’s immune system to eliminate residual lymphoma cells, so that widespread gene-delivery is not needed.

Earlier trials of such an approach have demonstrated its feasibility and some impressive initial results. The innovative aspects of our study are that it utilizes a novel, non-viral gene transfer technology and takes advantage of the unique immunologic setting of patients who have undergone stem cell transplantation. Prior to stem cell transplant, the patient’s immune system accepts lymphoma, allowing it to progress. After a patient’s immune system is wiped clean during stem cell transplant, giving an anti-lymphoma vaccine may cause it to be re-established in such a way that it is no longer accepting of lymphoma and can eliminate those few remaining cells.

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