The investment adds 75 new research grants to the LLS portfolio of 300 supported projects, and will fund a diverse selection of work to find better treatments and, potentially, cures for leukemia, lymphoma, myeloma, and other blood cancers.
“In our 67-year history, we have invested more than $1 billion in research to advance breakthrough therapies and cures, and many of our successes in the blood cancers are now helping patients with other cancers and chronic diseases,” Louis J. DeGennaro, PhD, president and chief executive officer of LLS, said in a press release.
LLS often boosts collaboration among academic researchers, biotech companies, and governmental agencies, to advance emergent research approaches like immunotherapy or precision medicine.
Specifically, these research grants are focused on three areas:
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) – Through the launch of its Beat AML Master Trial, a collaborative and multi-pronged clinical study of AML patients (including a core study getting underway, NCT02927106), the LLS will support a number of projects evaluating resistance to therapy ($5.5 million has been set aside to fund 11 new grants).
The society is also investing in studies into inherited genetic abnormalities ($1.8 million will fund a study about a protein called RUNX1, which is thought to increase a person’s risk of developing AML). Grants in this area will be announced in July, LLS said in the release.
Finally, through its LLS Therapy Acceleration Program (TAP), LLS is supporting an ongoing clinical study at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, looking at the potential of treating AML by starving cancer cells.
Immunotherapy – LLS will invest over $11 million in immunotherapy research, expanding its commitment to evaluate CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor) immunotherapy — an approach that genetically reprograms patients’ T-cells to target cancer cells before reintroducing the engineered T-cell into the body. A Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) grant will fund a project led by researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center that aims to advance new generation CAR-T cells aiming to both attack and kill cancer cells while also shutting down the cancer’s immune defense mechanisms.
“For almost two decades, the standard therapy and cure rate of patients with diffuse large B cell lymphoma and follicular lymphoma has not significantly changed,” said Anas Younes, MD, who will lead the SCOR. “With the LLS SCOR grant, we have assembled a world-class science team to take advantage of the recent developments in immunotherapy to apply them to innovative treatment strategies for patients with lymphoma. Our goal is to change the standard of care and to improve treatment outcomes.”
LLS will also commit $2.4 million to support translational research projects in immunotherapy, in a collaboration with Rising Tide Foundation. Four $600,000 grants — to research teams at Stanford University, Baylor College of Medicine, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and The University of Sydney (Australia) — will support clinical studies of immune system activation in patients with leukemia and lymphoma.
Precision Medicine – LLS is supporting efforts to identify mutations that lead to the development of blood cancers. A third SCOR project at Weill Cornell Medicine will assess the differences at the molecular level that make some lymphoma patients resistant to chemotherapy and other forms of therapy. Another project, at Yale University, will study targeted approaches for the treatment of monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS), a rare blood disease that is frequently a predecessor of multiple myeloma.
Each research project is detailed in the society’s press release.