- John K. Cowell, PhD, DSc, FRCPath, received a 1-year, $100K ‘bridge funding’ award from the American Society of Hematology (ASH) in support of a recent NIH grant submission that was considered to be of high impact by NIH study sections but fell outside of the funding range. The ASH bridge funding program provides funds that will allow additional data to be collected to support re-submissions of such proposals. The proposal by Dr. Cowell focused on assessing whether targeting the FGFR1 kinase would be a new treatment for AML. Funds provided by ASH will support investigations into the use of in vivo AML models to target FGFR1 kinase with novel drugs and to study the mechanisms of resistance to these anti-FGFR1 therapeutics.
- Esteban Celis, MD, PhD, brings to the GRU Cancer Center the remaining 3 years of his 5-year NCI/NIH R01 grant, “Interferon-gamma limits the effectiveness of peptide vaccines for cancer” that was awarded $1.6M during his tenure at the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL. One of the major obstacles for developing effective vaccines for treating cancer has been producing vaccines that induce strong immune responses against tumors. Unfortunately, most current vaccine types generate minimal immune responses and have little effect against established tumors. We have designed a novel vaccination approach called TriVax that utilizes 3 basic components: 1) synthetic peptides (protein fragments) derived from tumor antigens that stimulate T lymphocytes; 2) potent immunological adjuvants that activate the immune system; and 3) immune stimulatory monoclonal antibodies that enhance the efficacy of T cells to react with tumor cells. Preliminary results in a mouse model of malignant melanoma using TriVax demonstrates that this strategy is effective in inducing strong anti-tumor-T cell responses capable of decreasing tumor growth and enhancing survival. Interestingly, we also observed that TriVax is a substantially better therapy for established tumors, resulting in total tumor eradications in mice that are deficient of interferon-gamma. These results are confounding because interferon-gamma is a cytokine considered to be beneficial for immunotherapy against cancer. The goal of proposed studies is to undercover the mechanisms involved by which interferon-gamma may be inhibiting the therapeutic efficacy of TriVax and to develop strategies to overcome the negative effects of this cytokine in the treatment of cancer using optimized vaccines. The results from these studies will serve as preclinical data that will allow us to take this novel approach into the clinic to treat human patients with various types of cancer.