UCLA researchers received a $12 million grant to start clinical trials of a new treatment for advanced-stage lung cancer.
The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, an organization that funds stem cell research to accelerate advances in medicine, awarded the grant to the labs of Steven Dubinett, the director of the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center’s lung cancer research program, and Edward Garon, an associate professor of hematology and oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine, on Thursday.
The researchers will inject patients’ tumors with a combination of an FDA-approved immunotherapy drug and the patients’ own immune cells, according to Eli and Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at UCLA. Researchers hope adding the patients’ own cells will optimize the treatment to work in each individual’s immune system.
Tumors usually secrete a protein that stops the activity of T-cells, which are cells in the immune system that find and combat cancerous cells. The immunotherapy drug, pembrolizumab, reactivates the T-cells by preventing them from interacting with the protein.
While this treatment has shown promise on its own, researchers hope that injecting immune cells into tumors will allow the T-cells to recognize cancerous cells more efficiently. The injected cells are able to migrate into cancerous cells and make them visible to T-cells, according to the center of regenerative medicine and stem cell research.
Researchers hope combining these two treatments will create a more effective cancer therapy.
The participants in the study will receive three injections of their own immune cells over the course of 42 days, and take the immunotherapy drug for a year afterward.