IFI Members in the News
December 17, 2014
A feature in The New Yorker on HIV/AIDS referenced a Penn Medicine study published in New England Journal of Medicine in March on HIV gene therapy and CCR5, a rare mutation that provides a natural resistance to the virus. In that study, Carl H. June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of translational research at the Abramson Cancer Center, and colleagues successfully genetically engineered the immune cells of 12 HIV positive patients to resist infection, and decreased the viral loads of some patients taken off antiretroviral drug therapy entirely.
November 18, 2014
Lynn Wang from Carry the One Radio The Science Podcast in San Francisco spoke with Dr. John Wherry about evading the immune system. "Although our immune system s amazing at what it does, there are comples cases where it fails us. Everyday, our bodies fight off hordes of bacteria and viruses that cause disease. When fighting cancer, our bodies even face thier own cells that have gone rogue. However, certain pathogens and cancers manage to cicumvent our immune system."
November 13, 2014
News outlets across the U.S. and in the UK covered the story of an Abramson Cancer Center patient who participated in a Penn clinical trial in which his own immune cells were modified to target and attack his leukemia. Marshall Jensen, a 30-year-old musician, husband and father recently returned to his Utah hometown in remission after spending several months in Philadelphia receiving treatment. His cancer had come back several times previously despite chemotherapy drugs and bone marrow transplants. “’We were calling it our Hail Mary pass,’” he said of the Penn trial. 'It felt right. … We didn't know how we were going to get out there, what we were going to do, but it worked. By God's grace I was able to come back.” The Penn research team is led by Carl June, MD, and Jensen was treated by David Porter, MD, and Noelle Frey, MD.
November 7, 2014
"BBC Horizons" points to Dental Medicine's Henry Daniell and Physics' CHarlie Johnson as innovators whose work may "change the world as we know it."
November 6, 2014
Ivanhoe reports on a clinical trial from Penn Medicine researchers who engineered the immune cells of 12 HIV positite patients to resist infection. The phase I study, led by Carl June, MD, professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Bruce L. Levine, PhD, associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Pablo Tebas, MD, professor of Medicine in the division of Infectious Diseases, is the first successful clinical test of any gene editing approach in humans. CBS affiliates in Huntsville, AL., Anchorage and Juneau, Alaska, picked up the story. The clinical trial was also referenced in a MIT Technology article.
October 21, 2014
A new form of gene therapy for boys with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency syndrom (SCID-X1), a life threatening condition also known as “bubble boy” disease, appears to be both safe and effective, according to a study by Frederic Bushman of the Perelman School of Medicine.
T Cell Therapy Puts Leukemia Patients in Extended Remission
October 16, 2014
Ninety percent of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia went into remission after participating in trials of a personalized cellular therapy, CTL019, in the Abramson Cancer Center and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, according to new study published today by a Perelman School of Medicine research team in the New England Journal of Medicine. The team’s results, detailed in the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Reuters, Bloomberg News, CBS3 and other news outlets, represent an unprecedented success in the fight against this type of cancer, in a group of patients whose diseases had defied conventional treatments. “With the initial patients, we didn’t know if it was just lucky,” the study team’s leader, Carl H. June, MD a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center, told the New York Times. “It turns out it’s reproducible.”Stephan Grupp, MD, PhD, a professor of Pediatrics and director of Translational Research in the Center for Childhood Cancer Research at CHOP Noelle Frey, MD, MSCE, an assistant professor of Medicine in the Abramson Cancer Center, and David Porter, MD, a professor of Medicine and director of the Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center, are also quoted in news coverage of the new study.
Taubman Institute Awards Annual $100,000 Research Grant
October 13, 2014
The University of Michigan's A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute presented its $100,000 Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translation Medical Science Friday to Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in Penn's department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He was honored for his work developing a personalized cellular therapy for leukemia, in which a patient's own immune cells are engineered to fight their cancer.
October 10, 2014
George Shaw, MD, PhD, professor of Medicine and Microbiology, is featured in a video on Bill Gates' personal blog, "Gatesnotes." The post marks the 10th anniversary of Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges in Global Health program and the general concept of catalytic philanthropy. Shaw's research on HIV is covered, which has received a Grand Challenge grant.
A Closer Look
September 19, 2014
A study led by Svetlana Fayngerts and Youhai Chen of Medicine shows that lipid chemical messengers may be effective in treating cancer and inflammatory disorders.
Exercise Boosts Tumor-fighting Ability of Chemotherapy, Penn Team Finds
September 18, 2014
Nursing's Joseph Libonati and Medicine’s Sandra Ryeom found that pairing exercise with chemotherapy made cancer drugs more effective at shrinking tumors in mice.
Perelman School of Medicine Cancer Research Shines on Stand Up To Cancer Telethon
September 8, 2014
Friday night's Stand Up To Cancer telethon - carried on a record 31 TV networks and live-streamed on Hulu and Yahoo - featured interviews with Perelman School of Medicine faculty members Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center, and Stephan Grupp, MD, PhD, a professor of Pediatrics and director of Translational Research in the Center for Childhood Cancer Research at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, discussing advances in personalized immunotherapy that have led to unprecedented outcomes for patients with leukemia. The SU2C-St. Baldrick's Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, which aims to expand this type of approach to other cancers, is co-led by Perelman School of Medicine faculty members at CHOP.
September 5, 2014
Using his plant-based drug delivery system, Henry Daniell of Dental Medicine led a study in mice that successfully prevented a common complication of hemophilia treatment.
July 24, 2014
Ronald Collman and Elizabeth Grice are among Medicine faculty integrating microbiomics into their work to see how bacteria, viruses and fungi help keep people healthy.
Progress on HIV/AIDS
July 18, 2014
Ian Frank, MD, professor in the division of Infectious Diseases and director of Anti-Retroviral Clinical Research in the Penn Center for AIDS Research, was a guest on WHYY'ss "Radio Times" with Marty Moss-Coane for a show on the progress of HIV/AIDS treatment and research. Where do we stand in the battle against the epidemic? Frank was joined by AIDS activists for a roundtable discussion—everything from the Mississippi baby to the recent loss of the AIDS researchers on the downed Malaysian flight was tackled. “This is a huge tragedy for everyone that lost their lives and for their families and friends,” said Frank. “This is a huge blow to the HIV community,” he added.
July 13, 2014
A war on pancreas cancer is underway right here at the Abramson Cancer Center. A story in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer featured the work of Jeffrey Drebin, MD, chair of Surgery and the John Rhea Barton Professor of Surgery, and Robert Vonderheide, MD, the Hanna Wise Professor in Cancer Research in the ACC. Drebin and Vonderheide—both co-leads on Stand up to Cancer Dream Teams—are investigating new targeted therapies, immunotherapies, and more, to better the understand and treat the disease, which is projected to become this country's second-leading cancer killer. "We absolutely need to figure it out," said Vonderheide. "It's a medical emergency." Ongoing studies at the ACC have shed light on tumor biology and shown success with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine. "We're not declaring victory,” Drebin told the Inquirer. “We're declaring progress.”.
July 9, 2014
In continuing coverage, WHYY radio talked to David Porter, MD, the Jodi Fisher Horowitz Professor in Leukemia Care Excellence and director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center, about the recent FDA "Breakthrough Therapy" designation awarded to Penn's immunotherapy to treat relapsed and refractory adult and pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The designation--a first for a personalized cellular therapy to treat cancer-- should help expedite the review and approval process. "It allows us to work more collaboratively with the FDA so that the trials can be done efficiently so there can be proper and early oversight," Porter said. "Hopefully, it will be on a more rapid path to approval in the future."
July 7, 2014
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration awarded the University of Pennsylvania’s personalized immunotherapy—known as CTL019—its Breakthrough Therapy Designation for the treatment of relapsed and refractory adult and pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), reports the Wall Street Journal and Reuters. Such a designation expedites the development and review of new medicines that treat serious or life-threatening conditions. “Receiving the FDA’s Breakthrough Designation is an essential step in our work with Novartis to expand this therapy to patients across the world who desperately need new options to help them fight this disease,” said Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy and director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center. CTL019 is the first personalized cellular therapy for the treatment of cancer to receive this important classification. The announcement was also covered by Agence France-Presse, the Philadelphia Business Journal, and Fierce Biotech.
Laser and Drones: June at Penn Medicine, in Photos
June 30, 2014
The University of Pennsylvania campus largely falls silent in the summer
months, but Penn Medicine keeps on truckin'. In fact, the month of June
featured two of my favorite photography assignments thus far: lasers
First up, we have E. John Wherry, PhD, director of the Institute for Immunology, and his Becton Dickenson LSR II flow cytometer. If you have no idea what that means, you're not alone — so Wherry was kind enough to explain it:
"This instrument allows us to assess up to 20 parameters simultaneously at a single cell level with an amazing rate of up to 20,000 cells/second," he wrote in an e-mail. "As a result we can perform detailed profiling of the function of immune cells in different disease states."
Long story short, it enables researchers to determine which therapies are working and why a given therapy is effective or ineffective. This ultimately helps us develop better therapies and determine which patients will respond to a given treatment.
On top of that, it looks really cool. Wherry popped the hood on it and let me take a few shots. You can see them — and Wherry — in the slideshow at the bottom of this post.
Penn Immunologist to Co-direct $12 Million Grant to Study Hepatitis
June 30, 2014
John Wherry, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) are co-directing a $12 million grant to study immune responses in people who have been effectively cured of hepatitis C viral infection with new, high-potency antiviral drugs. This grant is part of the Cooperative Centers for Human Immunology program, administered by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
June 19, 2014
IFI investigator, Daniel J. Powell Jr. Ph.D., has been selected by the
Board of Directors from the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy
(ASGCT) for a 2014 Outstanding New Investigator Award. Dr. Powell was
selected from a competitive field of nominations based upon his
significant contributions to the field of gene and cell therapy. The
award ceremony and presentation session was held during the 17 th Annual
Meeting in Washington DC on May 23 rd , 2014, and was attended by thousands of meeting participants. Below is a summary from his award presentation:
The Powell Lab is developing innovative immunotherapy strategies built upon clinical observations and studies in basic T cell biology. Adoptive T cell therapy using naturally-occurring tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) or peripheral blood T cells genetically modified to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) can mediate comprehensive cancer elimination in patients, provided that highly avid, tumor antigen-specific T cells with the ability to proliferate and persist after infusion can be identified. We recently overcame one obstacle to widespread TIL therapy by showing that naturally-occurring tumor-reactive T cells in various cancers can be identified by their cell surface expression of the TNFR superfamily receptor, CD137, demonstrating a role for CD137 in the immunobiology of cancer. To instill T cells with enhanced ability to persist after infusion, we recently applied CAR technology as a tool to test the impact of various costimulatory signals on human CAR T cell survival following antigen encounter in vivo, and discovered a functional role for CD27 in human T cell memory formation. We also devised a novel dual CAR T cell approach where the TCR signal is dissociated from costimulatory signals in two independent CARs of distinct antigen specificity, thus delivering tumor-focused activity while comparatively sparing normal healthy tissues expressing a low level of single antigen. Lastly, to develop widespread T cell therapy, we pioneered a universal immune receptor approach that is adaptable in antigen specificity, allowing for highly personalized T cell generation based upon the repertoire of antigens expressed by each individual’s cancer cells. These strategies build on the early success of adoptive immunotherapy by addressing significant hurdles to otherwise safe and effective T cell therapy.