Vol 10. Issue 10 / March 22, 2010
Grant Funds Creation of Bioengineered "Designer" Lymph Nodes
A five-year, nearly $2 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) will fund research to design lymph nodes for cancer immunotherapy by researchers at the Moffitt Cancer Center and Scripps Florida.
A patient diagnosed with cancer has a dysfunctional immune system either because of the tumor or the treatment being used to eradicate the tumor. These designer lymph nodes will help to rebuild a patient's immune system in order to help fight disease. Researchers also hope to increase the potency of vaccines.
"We believe we will no longer be held hostage by what Mother Nature has given us with respect to an immune system," said James Mulé, executive vice president of applied research at Moffitt Cancer Center, which is located in Tampa. "We anticipate we will be able to create fully-functioning, designer lymph nodes at will in the human body."
Mulé is partnering with John Cleveland, chair of the Department of Cancer Biology, and Juliana Conkright, senior staff scientist, at Scripps Florida, the Jupiter campus of The Scripps Research Institute. The Scripps Florida scientists will be using high-throughput screening technologies to rapidly select the candidate genes to use in creating the human lymph nodes.
"Our collaborative efforts hold the real promise of restoring anti-tumor activity to the immune system of cancer patients, and could lead to cures for some cancer types," said Cleveland. "It is also a perfect example of the creative, state-of-the-art science being driven by investigators at Moffitt and Scripps and the power of collaboration between the two institutes in moving biomedical science from the laboratory to the patient."
The creation of these designer lymph nodes is not limited to cancer. The team plans to expand their use to other areas to boost immunity against a variety of infectious diseases and/or to improve the functions of the immune system during aging.
A clinical trial in melanoma is currently under way at Moffitt using one of the first candidate genes as a primitive lymph node. Twelve patients are presently enrolled.
Send comments to: mikaono[at]scripps.edu
"Our collaborative efforts hold the real promise of restoring anti-tumor activity to the immune system of cancer patients."