A worthy adversary for a complex killer.
Nabil Ahmed, MD
Baylor College of Medicine
Isaac Asimov famously said, “the most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” (I found it!) but “That’s funny…”
Asimov’s pithy observation explains how early funding from Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy led Nabil Ahmed, MD, to establish and expand his initial research focus on glioblastoma (GBM) and to realize important breakthroughs in gene therapies for tumors not only in the brain but in bone, muscle, fat, and cartilage.
The fact that cancer is such a complex killer has intrigued and challenged Dr. Ahmed since he began his career at Cairo University School of Medicine. With support from Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, he has proven to be a worthy adversary by harnessing the power of one’s own immune system cells to implode difficult cancers, such as GBM.
Dr. Ahmed explains that it’s not uncommon for cancer cells to appear in people, but a body’s immune system stops them from thriving. It is when cancers become invisible to a person’s immune system that they gain life-threatening traction.
At the heart of a tumor’s ability to thrive are its stem cells. These elite cells live inside tumors and act as their survival systems, enabling tumors to maintain low (invisible and undetectable) profiles, grow, adapt, and resist the immune system and traditional therapies.
Leveraging knowledge of how CAR T cells fight blood cancers, Dr. Ahmed and his team began exploring ways to remove immune cells (T cells) from a patient’s body and altering their DNA so when returned to that person’s body, the re-engineered T cells (and their daughter cells) are able to detect and kill difficult solid tumors and tumor stem cells.
Currently, Dr. Ahmed is directing three clinical trials, two of which have their genesis in the research funded by Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy. The HER2-GBM Trial addressed GBM and was recently completed with encouraging results and presented at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). The iCAR Clinical Trial is pursuing promising opportunities for other, non-GBM tumors that occur in the brain as a result of metastatic breast cancer.
Dr. Ahmed regards several of his research achievements to be consequences of his initial vision and the funding he received from Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy. He believes “Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy’s commitment to supporting innovative ideas in their initial stages is critically important for building meaningful bridges between basic and clinical research and realizing effective new treatments that can save lives.”
“Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy’s commitment to supporting innovative ideas in their initial stages is critically important for building meaningful bridges between basic and clinical research and realizing effective new treatments that can save lives.”