IFI Members in the News
How is Philadelphia Helping Lead the War Against Cancer?
The Philadelphia Business Journal’s first Cancer Summit will explore the role the Philadelphia region is playing in the battle against cancer on February 22. Researchers from Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center will be featured among the region’s top experts discussing the latest progress in their labs and at patients’ bedsides. Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the Abramson Cancer Center, will deliver the event’s keynote address.
Stand Up to Cancer
Partnering with machine-learning experts from Microsoft, E. John Wherry of the Perelman School of Medicine will co-lead a multidisciplinary team effort with experts in the life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics and engineering to look at critical aspects of the interaction between cancer and the immune system. The goal is to identify successful current treatments and develop new ones.
Can Gene Therapy Be Harnessed to Fight the AIDS Virus?
The Associated Press examines efforts to use gene therapy to improve treatment of AIDS. The article features an approach, led by James L. Riley, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology, which knocks out the gene for the HIV entryway while also adding a gene to help T cells recognize and kill HIV.
Penn Immunologist Awarded SU2C “Convergence 2.0” Funding to Lead Team-Based Investigation of Gynecologic Cancer Therapies
E. John Wherry, PhD, co-leader of the Abramson Cancer Center’s Immunobiology Program and director of Penn’s Institute for Immunology, and one of the most highly cited investigators in his field, has been awarded a “Convergence 2.0” research grant by Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C) to investigate immune system response to cancers. Wherry, the Richard and Barbara Schiffrin President’s Distinguished Professor of Microbiology and director of the Institute for Immunology at Penn, will co-lead an 11-member, multidisciplinary team effort called Connecting Immune Health and Tumor Biology in Gynecologic Cancers.
ASCO Names CAR T-Cell Therapy as Cancer Advance of the Year
Saying that the treatment is “poised to transform the outlook for children and adults with certain otherwise incurable cancers,” the American Society of Clinical Oncology has selected CAR T-cell therapy as its 2018 Advance of the Year. David Porter, MD, director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center and a leader of the Penn Medicine team that developed the first FDA-approved CAR therapy, is quoted in an OncLive story about the announcement.
Is Your Flu Vaccine Effective?
NBC10 reports on this year’s flu epidemic and the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. Scott Hensley, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology, explains that it’s too early tell how effective this year’s vaccine really is, but emphasizes that getting the flu shot can lessen the length and severity of symptoms.
Carl June’s Cancer Startup Raises $100 Million From Gilead, Sean Parker
TMunity, a biotechnology company founded around the work of cancer immunotherapy pioneer Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, announced $100 million in new funding from investors, including Sean Parker’s Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, Gilead Sciences, and Be The Match.
Remembering Leonard Jarett: Distinguished Scientist, Professor, and Penn Pathology Department Chair
On Saturday, January 13, Leonard Jarett, MD, 81, a professor and chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine from 1980 to 1998, died of complications from Parkinson’s disease. He revamped the department to improve clinical service, teaching, and research, which “resulted in improvements in the quality and turnaround time of [test] results and increased [consultation],” said David B. Roth, MD, PhD, current chair of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.
CAR T Cells: How to Cure Cancer with Your Own Cells
Reader’s Digest takes a deep dive into CAR T therapy and tells the stories of patients in some of the earliest trials at Penn Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. David L. Porter, MD, director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation at Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, is quoted.
China, Unhampered by Rules, Races Ahead in Gene-Editing Trials
Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, is quoted in a Wall Street Journal article about preparations to test the gene-editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 in a cancer clinical trial at Penn Medicine.
In a study published in Cell Reports, researchers led by Medicine’s E. John Wherry and Sarah Henrickson, also of CHOP, examined how immune responses vary based on factors such as age and previous exposure to viruses. They hope to identify key pathways involved in host-pathogen interactions and improve treatments for children with severe flu symptoms.
U.S. Doctors Plan to Treat Cancer Patients Using CRISPR
A team led by Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, is about to begin a trial that will use CRISPR to modify human immune cells so that they become expert cancer killers.
George Hajishengallis of the School of Dental Medicine and an international team of colleagues have found that “training” the immune system causes changes in the precursors of immune cells in the bone marrow. These changes could facilitate a more robust response to future infections or even enable the immune system to regenerate faster after chemotherapy.
Oncologists Must Be Prepared to Inform Patients About Risks, Benefits of CAR T Therapies
David L. Porter, MD, director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, talks about the importance of educating patients about CAR T therapy.
Doctor with Rare Disease Racing to Save His Own Life
David Fajgenbaum, MD, a research assistant professor of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics, is racing to find a cure for Castleman disease, an illness that is “like a mix between an autoimmune disease and a cancer.” Fajgenbaum is not only devoting his life to this cause for other patients – he’s been battling the rare and deadly disease himself since 2010. His story appeared on NBC’s “TODAY” Sunday Spotlight.
In a Milestone Year, Gene Therapy Finds a Place in Medicine
The Associated Press highlights major breakthroughs in gene therapies in 2017, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of CAR T cell therapy, which was originally developed at Penn. Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, is quoted.
After Kyra debuted as the first dog to participate in a cancer-vaccineclinical trial, pets have become an integral part of human medical research. David Roth of the Perelman School of Medicine and Nicola Mason of the School of Veterinary Medicine have turned the tables by focusing instead on how animals can be treated with human therapies.
Penn Rare Disease Researcher Speaks from Experience at the Healthcare Summit
David Fajgenbaum, MD, MBA, a research assistant professor of Translational Medicine and Human Genetics, and one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30” alums, spoke at the magazine’s summit about his experience having a deadly disease. He was diagnosed with the rare condition known as Castleman’s disease during medical school and is now a researcher investigating new treatments for the disease.
Forbes • Forbes Live (Clip)
Why You Need the Flue Shot Every Year
Scott Hensley, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology, comments in the New York Times about why it’s a good idea to get a flu shot very year. “Our vaccine process is sort of always one step behind because of this long production process and trying to update the vaccine to what’s circulating.”
CAR-T Therapy Leads to Durable Response in Lymphoma Study
Two studies led by Stephen J. Schuster, MD, director of the Lymphoma Program in the Abramson Cancer Center, show CAR T therapy can lead to high rates of durable remission for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Schuster presented the results of a global, multi-site trial at the 2017 ASH Annual Meeting. The results of a pilot study with longer follow-up are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Penn Medicine to Offer Womb Transplants After Successful Birth in Dallas
After the announcement of the country’s first live birth following a uterus transplant at Baylor University Medical Center, 6ABC sat down with Kate O’Neill, MD, MTR, an assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and Paige Porrett, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of Transplant Surgery – co-principal investigators on Penn’s Uterine Transplantation for Uterine Factor Infertility (UNTIL) trial – to discuss this milestone, the impact on the field, and the recent launch of the UNTIL trial.
Is it Time to Retire Cholesterol Tests?
Dan Rader, MD, chair of Genetics, comments in an article in Science magazine that questions the best test to gauge heart disease risk. “The data support that it’s the LDL particles themselves that are the bad actors,” rather than the cholesterol they contain, Rader said.
Genetic Programmers are the Next Startup Millionaires
In a story about the race to develop new and better CAR T cells, the founder of a startup talks about taking his inspiration from Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center.
Experts Tout the Power of Precision Medicine
Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the Abramson Cancer Center, was part of aU.S. News & World Report expert panel that discussed the challenges facing health care, and how the field must change to face the future.
Why Do We Still Grow Flu Vaccines in Chicken Eggs?
Research from the lab of Scott Hensley, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology, has found that manufacturing the flu vaccine in chicken eggs introduced mutations that reduced vaccine effectiveness. This problem is widely known among vaccine experts, but it was particularly bad last year for the H3N2 strain of flu that dominated the season.
New Gene Treatment Effective for Some Leukemia Patients
Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, is quoted in a New York Times story about a new CAR T approach targeting CD22 instead of CD19 for patients with leukemia.
CAR T-Cell Therapy: The New Frontier of Hope
Oncology Times tells the story of Emily Whitehead, the first pediatric patient to receive CAR T-Cell therapy for acute lymphoblastic leukemia. David L. Porter, MD, director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, and part of Emily’s treatment team at Penn and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is quoted.
Today's Aggressive Anti-Cancer Therapies Wouldn't Exist Without Early Struggles
Paul A. Offit, MD, chair of Vaccinology and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, writes about the early struggles of gene therapy and the side effect of cytokine release syndrome. He focuses on the team led by Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and the director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, that has found a way to manage that effect during their research on CAR T cell therapies.
Flu Season Is Here, and Experts Are Already Concerned
Coverage continues on new research from the lab of Scott Hensley, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology, which concluded that growing the flu virus in chicken eggs introduced mutations that reduced the effectiveness. This problem was particularly bad for the H3N2 strain of flu last year, but this year’s vaccine may also be imperfect.
A Penn Scientist Says He Knows Why Last Year's Flue Vaccine Was So Bad
New research from the lab of Scott Hensley, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology, has concluded that growing the flu virus in chicken eggs last year introduced mutations that reduced the effectiveness, which explains why many people who received flu shots got sick anyway. This problem is widely known among vaccine experts, but it was particularly bad last year for the H3N2 strain of flu that dominated the season.
CAR T-Cell Therapy Is Making Untreatable Cancer Treatable
The Daily Beast talks with David L. Porter, MD, director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, about the current benefits and future promise of CAR T cell therapy.
How Gut Bacteria Saved 'Dirty Mice' from Death
John Wherry, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, commented in a Science article about a study that transplanted gut bacteria from wild mice into “clean” lab mice. This “addition” made those rodents less likely to die from the flu or develop cancer.
Norovirus Evades Immune System by Hiding Out in Rare Gut Cells
PHILADELPHIA — Noroviruses are the leading cause of non-bacterial gastroenteritis in the world and are estimated to cause 267 million infections and 20,000 deaths each year. Although often referred to as the “cruise ship” virus in the United States, noroviruses are an expensive and serious public health problem particularly among young children, the elderly, and immune-compromised patients. Now, in a new study published in Immunity this week, researchers E. John Wherry, PhD and Vesselin Tomov, MD from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, have used a mouse model to show that, even in immunized animals, noroviruses can escape the immune system and still spread by hiding out in an extremely rare type of cell in the gut.
Disease-causing bacteria often attempt to shut down a host cell’s immune response in order to thrive. Research led by the School of Veterinary Medicine’s Igor Brodsky shows how host cells can fight back by triggering their own death to keep infections contained.
Led by Carolina López of the School of Veterinary Medicine, a team including researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine and the School of Engineering and Applied Science has resolved a paradox of viral infection. They’ve identified how a viral product can both trigger an immune response aimed at eliminating the virus or, conversely, allow the virus to survive and persist.
Why CAR-T Therapies Don't Work for Everyone Yet
David L. Porter, MD, director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, is quoted in a story exploring the reasons why CAR T therapy works for some patients but not for others.
F.D.A. Approves First Gene-Altering Leukemia Treatment
In a historic move in the fight against cancer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved CAR T cell therapy for treatment of patients as old as 25 with a form of B-cell precursor acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The personalized cellular therapy was developed at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), led by Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center; and Stephan Grupp, MD, PhD, the Yetta Deitch Novotny Professor of Pediatrics at Penn, director of the Cancer Immunotherapy Frontier Program, and chief of Cell Therapy and Transplant at CHOP.
"Make the Best of it Bash" Donates $500,000 to Penn Medicine Melanoma Research
Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the Abramson Cancer Center (ACC), andL ynn Schuchter, MD, chief of Hematology/Oncology, are mentioned in an article about the Tara Miller Foundation’s “Make the Best of It Bash” donation of $500,000 to the ACC for melanoma research.
Barbara Netter's Lifesaving Role in New Cancer Treatment
The Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, founded in Connecticut by Barbara Netter and her late husband Edward, was one of the earliest supporters of CAR T cell therapy, which was recently approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Center for Cellular Immunotherapies in the Abramson Cancer Center, spoke about the role that initial support played in his research.
Cancer Research, Parker Institutes to Test I-O Combos for Pancreatic Cancer
The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy has launched its first trial, which will be led by Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, the director of the Abramson Cancer Center. The trial, which has already begun enrolling patients, will evaluate combinations of immunotherapies with chemotherapy to treat pancreatic cancer.
Powerful Childhood Cancer Treatment Holds Promise - and Poses Hazards
Scientific American examines the promise of CAR T therapy, as well as the rates of recurrence and non-response among some patients. David L. Porter, MD, director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation, is quoted.
Abramson Cancer Center Appoints Deputy Director
Katherine L. Nathanson, MD, has been named deputy director of Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania. An expert in the field of cancer genetics, Nathanson will oversee several aspects of the cancer center’s scientific and clinical missions.
Local Doctors Talk FDA Approval of Childhood Leukemia Treatment
David L. Porter, MD, director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center, and Noelle Frey, MD, MSCE, an assistant professor of Hematology Oncology, appeared on FOX29’s “Good Day Philadelphia” to discuss the approval of CAR T cell therapy by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The therapy was developed by a team at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Additional coverage of the news continues worldwide.
Advances in Cancer Treatment
Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, director of the Abramson Cancer Center, and Stephan Grupp, MD, PhD, a professor of Pediatrics at Penn and director of the Cancer Immunotherapy Frontier Program at CHOP, appeared on WHYY’s “Radio Times” to discuss the latest advances in cancer treatment.
How HIV became a Cancer Cure
The Wall Street Journal profiles Carl June, MD, a professor of Immunotherapy and director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Penn, and documents the journey of his CAR T cell therapy research, which is now on the verge of possible approval by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
Cancer Genetics Expert Katherine L. Nathanson, MD, Named Deputy Director of Abramson Cancer Center
Katherine L. Nathanson, MD, an internationally recognized expert in the field of cancer genetics, has been named deputy director of the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
Penn Cancer Research Called "Newest Miracle Cure"
An article in Philadelphia magazine investigates CAR T cell therapy and the efforts of Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to get the treatment approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
Studying mosquitoes with west nile virus, how to stop it from spreakding
Sara Cherry, PhD, a professor of Microbiology, discusses research on mosquito-borne diseases in light of a local increase in West Nile Virus found in area mosquito monitoring.
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.
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 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.
Cancer stem cells target of new grant to UCSD scientists
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.
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 & Marrow Transplantation in the ACC, 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.
Diabetes Causes Shift in Oral Microbiome That Fosters Periodontitis, Penn Study Finds
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.