Theodore S. Johnson, MD, PhD, received a $375K, 3-year award from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) for “IDO-Based Immunotherapy for Pediatric Brain Tumors.”
This is the first grant to be awarded to GRU/MCG by ALSF, a foundation devoted to promoting research against childhood cancers. The current proposal involves the protein indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO), which is often co-opted by tumors to escape immune attack. Researchers will test the hypothesis that inhibiting IDO allows standard chemo-radiation therapy to trigger vascular activation and innate inflammatory pathways leading to tumor destruction, and that this intratumoral inflammation serves as a potent adjuvant to drive adaptive (T cell) immunity. By understanding the mechanisms through which IDO shields tumors from the underlying immune-activating effects of standard chemo/radiation therapies, researchers will develop new therapeutic strategies that combine these standard treatments with immunologic therapy for pediatric patients. Immunologic cancer therapy is now a cutting-edge new form of cancer treatment for adults, but has not yet brought benefit to children with cancer. The research funded by this grant will provide compelling preclinical data from laboratory models and tumor biopsies that will form the basis for such ground-breaking pediatric clinical trials.