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IFI Members in the News

    This beast kills at least 500,000 people a year; a Penn scientist is trying to stop it

    For as long as humans have shared the planet with mosquitoes, the goal has been to get rid of the winged pests, or at least keep them at bay. Drain the swamp. Spray the landscape. Put up screens and netting. And if all else fails — thwack!

    Biologist Michael Povelones has a far more sophisticated, if subtle, approach in mind: Boosting the insects' immune system.

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    Study Shows Aggressive Cancers Recruit Normal Cells to Spread Tumors by Imitating Viruses

    In a study that could explain why some breast cancers are more aggressive than others, researchers say they now understand how cancer cells force normal cells to act like viruses, allowing tumors to grow, resist treatment, and spread. The study was led by Andy J. Minn, MD, PhD, an associate professor of Radiation Oncology.

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    UC San Diego Takes on Cancer Therapy Pioneered at Penn Medicine

    An article in the San Diego Union-Tribune about new immunotherapy research efforts in California mentions pioneering CAR T cell research led by Carl June, MD, director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies.

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    One Big Cancer Breakthrough is Likely on the Way to Patients - Here's What May Be Coming Next

    In a piece for STAT News, David Porter, MD, director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center, discusses the “CAR T revolution” and the continuing development of personalized cellular therapies. The FDA is poised to formally approve the sale of CAR T therapy by Novartis, Penn’s collaborator to research and develop CTL019.

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    New Targets

    Andy Minn and Barzin Nabet of the Perelman School of Medicine have identified how cancer cells corrupt normal cells. They force the cells into mimicking a virus, which leads to more aggressive cancer and resistance to treatment. The team now looks to potential therapeutic targets to respond to the interference.

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    Microbes in the Mouth

    People with diabetes are susceptible to periodontitis, a gum infection that can result in tooth loss. New research led by Dana Graves of the School of Dental Medicine helps explain why: Diabetes triggers changes in the oral microbiome that enhance inflammation and the risk of bone loss.

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    Pathogenesis

    Elizabeth Grice, Vijay Bhoj and Kara Maxwell of the Perelman School of Medicine have been honored for their ongoing research. Their work includes the study of skin microbiome functions, CAR T-cell immunotherapy and the genetic makeup of tumors, respectively.

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    CAR T-Cell Immunotherapy Is a Big Deal for Cancer Treatment

    An FDA advisory committee voted this week to recommend approval of a personalized cellular therapy for pediatric and young adult leukemia developed at Penn Medicine, led by Carl June, MD, director of the Center for Cellular Therapies in the Abramson Cancer Center. The vote was the last step prior to the formal approval for sale by Novartis, Penn’s collaborator to research and develop CTL019 and other chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapies.

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    A Cancer First

    As reported on the front page of The New York Times, a revolutionary treatment that transforms a cancer patient’s own cells into a “living drug” has been recommended for approval by an FDA panel. The treatment was developed by a Perelman School of Medicine team led by Carl June and tested at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where Stephan Grupp led the effort. It has shown stunning results among children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia who have exhausted all other treatment options.

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    Cancer Cells Force Normal Cells to Mimic Viruses to Help Tumors Spread, Resist Treatment

    In a study that could explain why some breast cancers are more aggressive than others, researchers such as Andy Minn, MD, PhD say they now understand how cancer cells force normal cells to act like viruses – allowing tumors to grow, resist treatment, and spread. The virus mimic is detected in the blood of cancer patients, particularly in cases of an aggressive type known as triple-negative breast cancer. Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania say cracking the code of how this process works opens up the possibility of targeting this mechanism for treatment. They published their findings today in Cell.

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    FDA Advisors Say Yes to Personalized Cancer Therapy

    On Wednesday, an FDA advisory committee voted unanimously to approve a personalized cellular therapy – the first of its kind – for pediatric and young adult leukemia developed at Penn Medicine. The vote is the last step before the therapy is formally approved for sale by Novartis, Penn’s collaborator to research and develop CTL019 and other forms of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy. Carl June, MD, director of the Center for Cellular Therapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, and Stephan Grupp, MD, PhD, director of the Cancer Immunotherapy Frontier Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, are quoted in extensive national coverage of the vote.

    Communications Placements
    Philadelphia Inquirer • The New York Times • The Washington Post • NPR • Reuters • Wall Street Journal • TIME • NBC News • NBC Nightly News (Clip) • CBS News • Associated Press via ABC News • STAT News • Nature • Fortune • The Hill • Endpoints News • HealthDay News via WebMD

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    Immune Health

    Jorge Henao-Mejia of the Perelman School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has been selected as a Pew Scholar in biomedical sciences for his ongoing work in immunology. His lab uses gene-editing tools to establish the molecular mechanisms involved in the development of chronic inflammatory conditions.

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    Topical Antibiotics Dramatically Change Skin Microbiome, Mouse Study Shows

    Topical antibiotics affect the microbial make up of skin long after application, while antiseptics have a smaller, less durable impact, according to a study from Elizabeth Grice, PhD, an assistant professor of Dermatology, and Adam J. SanMiguel, PhD, a researcher in the Grice Laboratory.

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    Colonization

    A study led by Elizabeth Grice of the Perelman School of Medicine examined the effects of antibiotics and antiseptics on communities of bacteria that live on skin. The findings show antibiotics can linger and disrupt skin microbiomes days after treatment stops, whereas antiseptics do not have as strong an impact.

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    Sharing Microbiomes

    A research project jointly led by Elizabeth Grice of the Perelman School of Medicine and Phillip Scott of the School of Veterinary Medicine found that a perturbed skin microbiome can be transmitted from an affected mouse to a healthy cage mate, predisposing the latter to a more severe case of the disease.

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    Advances in Pancreatic Cancer: Guidelines, Treatments, and Research

    Medscape highlights the latest innovations in pancreatic cancer, including the work of Gregory L. Beatty, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of Hematology Oncology, who is leading a precision medicine approach to the disease.

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    Doctor Works to Cure Himself of Castleman’s Disease

    David Fajgenbaum, MD, a research assistant professor of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics, discusses his work to solve the mysteries of Castleman’s disease (CD) onNBC10. He is a CD researcher who was diagnosed with the rare disease five years ago.

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    The Private Sector Steps up the War On Cancer

    In a piece on the most promising work in the cancer field, The Huffington Post recognizes Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy and director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Penn, for his breakthroughs in leukemia. June received the prestigious Karnofsky Award at the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting.

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    The Solution for Skin Ailments Could Be Right Under Your Nose

    For decades researchers have argued that bacteria on the skin are partly to blame for certain disorders like acne and eczema. Now, it seems, bacteria may be part of the treatment, too. Elizabeth Grice, PhD, an assistant professor of Dermatology, is quoted as an expert.

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    ‘Biologically Relevant’

    Using genome-wide association studies, Katherine Nathanson of the Perelman School of Medicine and her team identified new genetic locations that make some men more susceptible to inherited testicular germ cell tumors. Their findings can help determine which patients are at a higher risk of developing the disease.

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    Rare Diseases Difficult to Diagnose, Cures Hard to Come By

    David Fajgenbaum, MD, a research assistant professor of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics, discusses his work to solve the mysteries of Castleman’s disease (CD). He is a CD researcher who was also diagnosed with the rare disease five years ago.

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    Marrow Clearance with Concurrent CAR T-Cells, Ibrutinib in Resistant CLL

    Combining a new cellular therapy with an existing inhibitor drug has led to complete remission in some CLL patients, according to new research from Saar I. Gill, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of Hematology Oncology, and David L. Porter, director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation.

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    Orphan Disease Center Brings Communities, Researchers Together to Fight Rare Illnesses

    A profile of the Penn Center for Orphan Diseases (ODC) and its “Million Dollar Bike Ride” event features quotes from James Wilson, MD, PhD, ODC director and a professor of Pediatrics; Monique Molloy, ODC executive director; and David Fajgenbaum, MD, ODC associate director of patient impact and research assistant professor of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics. Other Penn Medicine researchers working on rare diseases, including Jean Bennett, Mark Haskins, Frederick Kaplan, Reed Pyeritz, Daniel Rader, and Vera Krymskaya, are also mentioned.

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    Study Uncovers New Insight on Inherited Testicular Cancer Risk

    A new study from Katherine L. Nathanson, MD, a professor of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics, identifies new genetic locations that could be susceptible to inherited testicular germ cell tumors. The findings could help doctors understand which men are at the highest risk of developing the disease and signal them to screen those patients.

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    Industry "Road Tests" New Wave of Immune Checkpoints

    John Wherry, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, comments on the success of immune checkpoint inhibitors in oncology, “Through intelligence or just luck, we managed to stumble on the two most fundamental of these inhibitory receptors early on. There are clearly secondary pathways that play a fundamental role. And then there may be tertiary pathways that are context-specific or cell-type-specific.”

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    Immune Atlases Created for Kidney, Lung Cancers

    E. John Wherry, PhD, director of the Institute for Immunology, is quoted on a study exploring the creation of comprehensive “immune atlases” of cancers. He notes that the challenge is to translate this information into targeted therapies

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    Blood and Bone Marrow Therapies Grab Spotlight at World's Top Cancer Meeting

    Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy and director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, is quoted in a story recapping the latest in CAR-T therapy from the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting.

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    A First: All Respond to Gene Therapy in a Blood Cancer Study

    The Associated Press reports that the early results of a “revolutionary” new cell and gene therapy for multiple myeloma have been an unprecedented success. Carl June, MD, a professor of Immunotherapy and the director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, is quoted.

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    Carl H. June, MD, Receives ASCO's Highest Scientific Honor

    Carl June, MD, a professor of Immunotherapy and director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, received the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award – ASCO’s highest award for science – for his work on CAR-T therapy.

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    Cancer Immunotherapy: the Hope and the Hype

    Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, is quoted in a CNN story examining progress in the field of cancer immunotherapy. Vonderheide expects the approach’s power to be enhanced by embracing an even broader view of cancer biology and therapy, noting, “There are great synergies, for example, from combining knowledge of immunology, genetics, and tumor biology that we have only just begun to realize."

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    Archived News

    See news from previous years.

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