The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has awarded $1,359,000 in career development grants to three Dana-Farber physician-scientists who are working to develop and refine treatments for blood cancers.
The foundation is a global leader in the fight against cancer, with the goal of finding cures for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, myeloma, and other blood cancers. For more than four decades, LLS has partnered with Dana-Farber researchers to achieve important breakthroughs in the understanding and treatment of these diseases.
Caron Jacobson, MD, MMSc, received an LLS Scholar in Clinical Research grant to investigate the safety and effectiveness of CAR T-cell therapy for patients with relapsed or refractory primary and secondary central nervous system lymphoma (CNSL), an extremely rare and deadly form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. CAR T-therapy is a revolutionary cellular therapy that uses specially altered T cells to strengthen the inherent cancer-fighting power of these immune cells.
She and others conducted clinical trials that resulted in recent FDA approval for a different type of CAR T-cell therapy for patients whose large B-cell lymphoma (LBCL) or follicular lymphoma (FL) relapsed or wasn’t responding to standard treatments. The LLS grant will enable Jacobson to test this therapy, called axicabtagene ciloleucel (axi-cell), against central nervous system lymphomas.
“We know that the currently available treatments don’t work in many patients with CNSL, and when they do, the effects are not long-lasting,” said Jacobson, medical director of the Dana-Farber Immune Effector Cell Therapy Program. “We think CAR T-cell therapy may represent the most promising treatment option.”
Andrew Lane, MD, PhD, studies blastic plasmacytoid dendritic cell neoplasm (BPDCN), an aggressive and uncommon blood cancer that has some of the features of leukemia and lymphoma. It also presents with characteristic skin tumors.
“My goal is to figure out what makes BPDCN tick and translate that knowledge to new therapy,” said Lane, director of Dana-Farber’s Blastic Plasmacytoid Dendritic Cell Neoplasm Center. He is using his LLS Scholar grant to investigate how BPDCN cells differ from normal blood cells, learn why the disease affects men more than women, and develop targeted therapies that can improve survival and minimize side effects.
Christopher Reilly, MD, a physician in Dana-Farber’s Hematologic Oncology Program, received an LLS Special Fellow grant to determine the role of telomere maintenance in intestinal regeneration and mortality among patients receiving a stem cell transplant for a blood cancer. A telomere is a region of repetitive DNA sequences at the end of a chromosome that protects the chromosome from becoming frayed or tangled.
“LLS is pleased to be able to support these Dana-Farber physician-scientists who are working relentlessly to achieve better outcomes for patients with blood cancers,” said LLS Chief Scientific Officer Lee Greenberger, PhD. “LLS funds lifesaving blood cancer research around the world, and Dana-Farber’s work is a cornerstone that will lead to better care and help accelerate the discovery of cures.”