- January 27, 2015
Penn Study Reveals Possible Therapeutic Target for Common, but Mysterious Brain Blood Vessel Disorder
Cardiovascular scientists at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have studied a pathway in heart development to discover an important set of molecular signals, triggered by cerebral cavernous malformation-linked gene defects that potentially could be targeted to treat the disorder. “We hope that these findings will lead to a better understanding of the origins of CCM, and thus to treatment possibilities,” says Mark L. Kahn, MD, a professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, and senior author of the new study, published in Developmental Cell.
- January 26, 2015
For his work in cancer biology, Xianxin Hua of Medicine has been awarded a Harrington Scholar-Innovator Award and $100,000 for two years to support his research.
- January 23, 2015
Based on a review led by Dental Medicine professor Thomas Sollecito, the ADA issued a guideline regarding the use of antibiotics before dental procedures.
- January 21, 2015
Mutated ATRX Gene Linked to Brain and Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors is Potential Biomarker for Rare Adrenal Tumors Too
A somatic mutation in the ATRX gene recently demonstrating potential as a molecular marker for aggressive brain tumors could also serve as a biomarker for rare neuroendocrine tumors, according to a new Penn Medicine study in Nature Communications, reports Endocrine Today. “We have identified, for the first time, somatic ATRX mutations in pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas,” said Katherine Nathanson, MD, an associate professor in the division of Translational Medicine and Chief Oncogenomics Physician for the Abramson Cancer Center. The mutation could not only serve as that biomarker for metastatic disease, but also a potential therapeutic drug target in the future
- December 22, 2014
Inovio Begins Human Testing of Cancer Therapy
A Philadelphia Business Journal blog post covered a newly-opened phase I clinical trial using hTERT DNA immunotherapy. The drug will be tested in adults with breast, lung, or pancreatic cancer at high risk of relapse after surgery and other cancer treatments. The ultimate goal is to reduce the risk of relapse in these patients. "The next great wave of oncology advancements will be treatments which empower the patient's own immune system to seek and destroy cancer," said principal investigator, Robert Vonderheide, MD, PhD, the Hanna Wise Professor in Cancer Research in the Abramson Cancer Center.
- December 17, 2014
Can AIDS be Cured?
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
Evading the Immune System
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 complex 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 their own cells that have gone rogue. However, certain pathogens and cancers manage to circumvent our immune system."
Listen to the Podcast Here
- November 13, 2014
How Immune Cells Become Cancer Hunters
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."
Watch the video
- November 6, 2014
HIV Gene Therapy: From Bench to Bedside
Ivanhoe reports on a clinical trial from Penn Medicine researchers who engineered the immune cells of 12 HIV positive 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
Path to a Cure
A new form of gene therapy for boys with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome (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.
- October 16, 2014
T Cell Therapy Puts Leukemia Patinets in Extended Remission
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.
- October 13, 2014
Taubman Institute Awards Annual $100,000 Research Grant
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
Why our Foundation Takes on Grand Challenges
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.
- September 19, 2014
A Closer Look
A study led by Svetlana Fayngerts adn Youhai Chen of Medicine shows that lipid chemical messengers may be effetcive in treating cancer and inflammatory disorders.
- September 18, 2014
Exercise Boosts Tumor-fighting Ability of CHemotherapy, Penn Team Finds
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.
- September 8, 2014
Perelman School of Medicine Cancer Research Shines on Stand up to Cancer Telethon
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.
Watch the Videos- SU2C segment #1 and SU2C segment #2
- September 5, 2014
Plant-based Research at Penn Prevents Complication of Hemophilia Treatment in Mice
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.
- July 18, 2014
Progress on HIV/AIDS
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's "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.
Listen to the audio
- July 13, 2014
As pancreas cancer threat grows, so do strategies
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
FDA Designates Penn's Leukemia Treatment as "BreakthroughTherapy"
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
Penn's Imunotherapy for Leukemia Receives FDA's Breakthrought Designation
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.
- June 30, 2014
Lasser and Drones: June at Penn Medicine, in Photos
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 and drones.
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.
Read more and see the slideshow
- June 30, 2014
Penn Immunologist to Co-direct $12 Million Grant to Study Hepatitis
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
Outstanding New Investigator Award
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 17th 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.
- June 2, 2014
Check Up: Chronic Inflammation's Sourge Effect
The Philadlephia Inquirer covered by E. John Wherry, PhD, director of the Insitute for Immunology and postdoctoral fellow Erietta Stelekati, PhD, explaining why the immune system is less capable of developing immunity to diseases when it is fighting a background 'bystander' infection. The researchers fingers a key culpirt in these breakdowns of the immune system: chronic inflammation. They explain how long-term inflammation from one infeciton impairs the ability of infection-fighting T cells to form memories of any additional invaders - thereby hampering the immune system's ability to recognize and attache those invaders on future occasions.
- May 15, 2014
"Bystander" Chronic Infections Thwart Development of Immune Cell Memory, Penn Study Finds
A team from the Perelman School of Medicine, led by E. John Wherry, director of the Insitute for Immunology, found that chronic bystander viral or parasitic infections - which are models for human infections like hepatitis, malaria, and parasitic worms - impaired the development of memory T cells in mouse models of long-term infection. The effect of bystander infections also extended beyond mice. The researchers generated signatures of transcribed genes of cytomegalovirus-specific T cells from people with chronic hepatitis C infection and helarhy controls. The gene-expression profiles of these two groups showed a clear impact of bystander chronic infection on T cells, including a deiffernce in expressio of many key T-cell memory related genes.
- May 5, 2014
Immune Cells Outmart Bacterial Infection by Dying, Penn Vet Study Shows
A new study led by Igor Brodsky, an Assitant Professor of Pathobiology at Penn Vet, has painted a clearer picture of the delicate arms race between the human immune system and a pathogen that seeks to infect and kill human cells. The research explores the strategies by which the bacterial pathogen Yersinia, responsible for causing plague and gastrointestinal infections, tries to outsmart immune cell responses and looks at the tactivs used by the immune system to fight back.
- April 29, 2014
Healing the Future
David Porter, MD, a professor of Medicine and director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center, is quoted in a CNN feature detailing 10 recent medical advances that are saving lives in new ways, including an ACC team's work modigying cancer patients' own immune cells to attack their cancer. "This is absolutely one of the more exciting advanes I've seen in cancer therapy in the last 20 years," Porter says. "We've entered into a whole new realm of medicine."
- April 10, 2014
Growing Plants to Save Lives
Tucked behind old factory buildings on Penn's South Bank campus stands a gleaming greenhouse. The $2 million structure, completed late last year, is state-of-the-art. The greenhouse is the domain of Henry Daniell, a professor in the departments of Biochemistry and pathology at Penn Dentaland director of translational research. Daniell joined Penn's faculty last year and has been working diligently to see his research move from the lab to the clinic. His life's work centers on a unique means of delivering drugs and vaccinations to the human body. Instead of relying upon sterile injections to ferry the therapeutic protein of interest to the intended tissue, Daniell has used a humbler vehicle: lettuce leaves.
- April 7, 2014
Penn Medicine Physician to Co-Lead Stand Up to Cancer "Dream Team" to Fight Pancreatic Cancer
IFI Faculty Member and Cancer Immunology Program Leader, Robert Vonderheide will be a co-leader on the recently announced Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C)-Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Convergence Dream Team. The new effort, titled “Transforming Pancreatic Cancer to a Treatable Disease,” was announced here today by SU2C and The Lustgarten Foundation, along with the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), SU2C’s Scientific Partner, at a press event during the AACR Annual Meeting 2014 Armed with $8 million in funding over the course of three years, Dr. Vonderheide and investigators from Penn’ Abramson Cancer Center and several other institutions will work together to develop new therapies to harness patients’ own immune cells to treat pancreatic cancer.
- April 1, 2014
Commander of an Immune Flotilla
An article in The Scientist profiles Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center. The article traces his career from his years as a Naval physician-scientist specializing in HIV to his recent success leading the Penn research team that has demonstrated success using engineered versions of patients' own immune cells to combat their blood cancers. The article also notes his longtime collaborations with Bruce Levine, PhD, an associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Cell and Vaccine Production Facility, and David Porter, MD, a professor of Medicine and director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center.
- March 17, 2014
Penn Immunology Program Ranks High in the US News List
The Immunology Graduate Group is #6 in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of Best Graduate Schools. According to U.S. News, Penn is one of "the best science schools for immunology/infectious disease." See the U.S. News & World Report website for a list of programs.
- January 14, 2014
Cancer Suppressor Gene Links Metabolism with Cellular Aging
A team of researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine has identified a class of p53 target genes and regulatory molecules that represent more promising therapeutic candidates. As Xiaolu Yagn, PhD Professor of Cancer Biology and his team describe in an advance online Nature publication, p53 participates in a molecular feedback circuit with malic enzymes, thereby showing that p53 activity is also involved in regulating metabolism.
- January 13, 2014
Wistar to Launch Largest Randomized Trial Aiming for an HIV Cure by Diminishing Viral Reservoir Beyond Current Therapies
A multi-institutional research team led by Luis Montaner, D.V.M., D.Phil., a professor at The Wistar Institute and director of Wistar's HIV-1 Immunopathogenesis Laboratory, has received a four-year, $6.2 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Instiuttes of Health to hold a trial of a new therapeutic strategy that has shown strong signs that it can diminish the amount of persistent HIV-1 virus residing in the cells of people with HIV/AIDS. While current therapies for HIV/AIDS hold the HIV-1 virus at bay, they do not reduce the amountof virus within patients,which is a necessary first step toward a cure.
- November 22, 2013
Paths Not Taken: Notch Signaling Pahways Keep Immature T Cells on The Right Track
The lab of Avinash Bhandoola, PhD, professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, has studied the origins of T cells for many years. One protein called Notch, which has well-known roles in the development of multiple tissues, plays an essential role in triggering T-cell development. With graduate student Ellen DeObaldia, Bhandoola describes in Nature Immunology how Notch signaling induces gene expression of genes that promote the maturation of T cells and discourage alternative cell fates. Deficiency of the Notch target gene Hes1 in blood stem cells results in extremely low T-cell numbers, but the underlying mechanism is unknown. Keeping in mind that Notch signaling gone awry induces leukemia, De Obaldia notes that “understanding the Notch pathway on a molecular level can shed light on how normal cells are transformed in the context of cancer.”.
- October 21, 2013
Institute of Medicine Elects IFI Faculty Member
Seven professors from the Perelman School of Medicine, including IFI faculty member Dr. George Shaw, have been elected members of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), one of the nation's highest honors in biomedicine. Established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, IOM has become recognized as a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on health issues. With their election, members make a commitment to volunteer their service on IOM committees, boards, and other activities. George M. Shaw, M.D., Ph.D., is professor of Medicine and Microbiology. His investigative work focuses on the transmission and immunopathogenesis of HIV-1 and hepatitis C virus (HCV), human pathogens that infect more than 200 million individuals worldwide. Shaw is recognized for having developed the first molecular clones of HIV-1, which led to the development of antibody and nucleic acid tests to protect the blood supply and diagnose and monitor HIV-1 infections.
- September 3, 2013
Delivering Drugs with Plants, Penn's Henry Daniell Aims to Save Lives
An admonishment to eat your greens may take on a whole new meaning if Henry Daniell, who recently joined the faculty of the Penn Dental Medicine, has anything to do with it. His outside-the-box thinking has turned lettuce leaves into drug-delivery systems, with results that have the potential to make disease treatment and prevention affordable to a global population. Now at Penn, Daniell is working to take his plant-based medicine platform from the lab to the clinic, and to begin saving lives.
- May 1, 2013
Gregory Sonnenberg: Cellular Spy
Growing up outside of Buffalo, New York, Gregory Sonnenberg liked to catch tadpoles and watch them develop in glass jars. “It wasn’t always successful,” he admits. “There was a lot of trial and error.” But that early interest in experimental biology metamorphosed into something more serious, and in 2003 Sonnenberg started college at the State University of New York at Buffalo to study biomedical science.
- April 1, 2013
Penn's Carl June wins Philadelphia Award
University of Pennsylvania researcher Carl H. June has been selected to receive the 2012 Philadelphia Award for “his extraordinary advancements in gene therapy aimed at treating HIV and cancer.” June and his team recently reported that of the first 12 patients treated with the experimental therapy, nine – including two children – had complete or partial remissions from advanced, intractable leukemia. Two adults remain cancer-free two and a half years after treatment.
- February 21, 2013
Penn Reserachers Develop Protein "Passport" that Helps Nanoparticles Get Past Immune System
The body's immune system exists to identify and destroy foreign objects whether they are bacteria, viruses, flecks of dirt or splinters. Unfortunately, nanoparticles designed to deliver drugs, and implanted devices like pacemakers or artificial joints, are just as foreign and subject to the same response. Now researcher, Dennis Discher, has figured out a way to provide a "passport" for such therapeutic devices, enabling them to get past the body's security system.
- December 26, 2012
Penn Medicine Immunologist Chosen for Forbes 30 under 30 List
Gregory Sonnenberg, Ph.D., research associate in the Division of Gastroenterology and the Institute for Immunology was chosen for Forbes magazine's second year of publihing a list of the top-30 rising stars in science and health under the age of 30. His work was described as studying why the immune system sometimes overreacts to "good" bacteria in the intestinal tract, potentially leading to cancer or inflammatory bowel disease. "I was extremely surprised and excited to be nominated to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in Science and Healthcare," says Sonnenberg. "It is an enormous honor to be named on this list with so many talented scientist and innovators from around the world."
- December 18, 2012
Microbiologist to Lead Penn Medicine's Institute for Immunology
E. John Wherry, associate professor of Microbiology, has been named the new Director of the Institute for Immunology (IFI), at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania. The Penn Institute for Immunology was established in 2009 to provide an administrative and programmatic structure to unify the basic, translational, and clinical immunology communities across the University. The Institute’s primary mission is to establish new interactions and synergistic collaborations that will accelerate innovative discoveries and to apply findings within the basic sciences to clinically–translatable approaches. Its membership now includes more than 160 faculty members from 23 departments across five schools as well as representation from CHOP and the Wistar Institute.
“The Institute for Immunology at Penn is designed to capitalize on our strengths in the basic and translational immunology of inflammation, autoimmunity, cancer, transplantation and infection and to catalyze the next steps in basic science discovery, translational research and clinical treatment of immune-related diseases,” says Wherry. “The IFI will foster cross–disciplinary interactions with other centers and institutes to keep Penn at the forefront of immunology research and treatment.”
- December 12, 2012
IFI Faculty Members appointed to editorial board of new journal
Institute for Immunology faculty members Robert Vonderheide, MD and Carl June, MD have been appointed to the editorial board of a new journal, Cancer Immunology Research (CIR). Dr. Vonderheide has been appointed Deputy Editor and Dr. June has been named Senior Editor of the new publication. Cancer Immunology Research plans to publish outstanding original articles reporting major advances in cancer immunology that span the discipline from basic investigations in host–tumor interactions to developmental therapeutics in model systems, early translational studies in patients, and late–stage clinical trials. The journal’s special features will include “Masters of Immunology”—primers by leading immunologists—and “Cancer Immunology at the Crossroads”—perspectives that highlight the intersection of immunology with other areas of cancer research and allied disciplines.
- December 9, 2012
Leukemia Patients Remain in Remission More than Two Years after receiving genetically engineered T cell therapy
Nine of twelve leukemia patients who received infusions of their own T cells after the cells had been genetically engineered to attack the patients’ tumors responded to the therapy, which was pioneered by scientists in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Penn Medicine researchers will present the latest results of the trial today at the American Society of Hematology’s Annual Meeting and Exposition. The clinical trial participants, all of whom had advanced cancers, included 10 adult patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia treated at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and two children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia treated at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Two of the first three patients treated with the protocol at HUP remain healthy and in full remissions more than two years after their treatment, with the engineered cells still circulating in their bodies. The findings reveal the first successful and sustained demonstration of the use of gene transfer therapy to turn the body’s own immune cells into weapons aimed at cancerous tumors.
- November 29, 2012
Penn Team Identifies Molecular Root of "Exhausted" T cells in chronic viral infection
When you get an acute infection, such as influenza, the body generally responds with a coordinated response of immune-cell proliferation and attack that rapidly clears the pathogen. Then, their mission done, the immune system stands down, leaving a population of sentinel memory cells to rapidly redeploy the immune system in the event of reinfection. But what about chronic infection? In the case of such pathogens as hepatitis C, HIV, and malaria, the body and the pathogen essentially fight to a prolonged stalemate, neither able to gain an advantage. Over time, however, the cells become “exhausted” and the immune system can collapse, giving the pathogen the edge. Now, a new study by researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania is showing just how that happens. The findings also suggest a novel therapeutical approach that might be used to shift the balance of power in chronic infections. The study appears in the November 30 issues of Science. The team, led by E. John Wherry, PhD, associate professor of Microbiology and Director of the Institute for Immunology, used a mouse model of chronic viral infection to map the T-cell response that arises when the immune system is on an extended war footing.
- October 15, 2012
Institute of Medicine Elects Six New Members from Penn
Six professors from the University of Pennsylvania, representing four schools, have been elected members of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), one of the nation’s highest honors in biomedicine. Established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences, IOM has become recognized as a national resource for independent, scientifically informed analysis and recommendations on health issues. The new Penn IOM members include Carl June, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Perelman School of Medicine, and the Program Director of Translational Research, Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute.
- October 4, 2012
Lowering the Age of Scientific Independence
Just over five years ago, Greg Sonnenberg, PhD, research associate in the Division of Gastroenterology and the Institute for Immunology, was tossing his mortarboard in the air at his now undergraduate alma mater SUNY Buffalo. This month, he will be starting his first independent research position, all before turning 30, effectively bypassing the ubiquitous postdoctoral phase of a typical career in biomedical research. Sonnenberg is one of 14 early–career scientists supported this year with an EIA, part of the second annual cohort of awardees.
- September 28, 2012
Penn Immunologists find a Molecule that Puts the Breakes on Inflammation
A new study led by University of Pennsylvania researchers has now identified a crucial signaling molecule involved in counterbalancing the immune system attack. “The immune response is like driving a car,” said Christopher Hunter, professor and chair in the Department of Pathobiology in Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine. “You hit the accelerator and develop this response that’s required to protect you from a pathogen, but, unless you have a brake to guide the response, then you’ll just careen off the road and die because you can’t control the speed of the response.” The research to characterize this immune system “brake” was led by Hunter and Aisling O’Hara Hall, a doctoral candidate in the Immunology Graduate Group.
- June 6, 2012
Good Bugs Gone Bad: Microbes that Promote Normal Health Can "Turn Bad" if Found Outside the Intestine
The healthy human intestine is colonized with over 100 trillion beneficial, or commensal, bacteria of many different species. In healthy people, these bacteria are limited to the intestinal tissues and have a number of helpful properties, including aiding in the digestion of food and promoting a healthy immune system. However, when it comes to commensal bacteria, location is key. While commensal bacteria in the intestine provide positive effects, several chronic human diseases, including HIV/AIDS, inflammatory bowel disease, viral hepatitis, and obesity are associated with the spread of these intestinal commensal bacteria to the blood stream and other peripheral tissues, which can cause chronic inflammation. ‘Good bugs’ that promote normal health can ‘turn bad’ if found in the wrong location. Now, David Artis, Ph.D., associate professor of Microbiology and Gregory F. Sonnenberg, Ph.D., a postdoctoral researcher in the Artis lab, have identified that immune cells, called innate lymphoid cells, are resident in the intestinal tissues of healthy humans, mice, and non-human primates, and are critical in limiting the location of commensal bacteria.
- May 29, 2012
T Cells "Hunt" Parasites Like Animal Predators Seek Prey, a Penn Vet-Penn Physics Study Reveals
By pairing an intimate knowledge of immune–system function with a deep understanding of statistical physics, a cross–disciplinary team at the University of Pennsylvania has arrived at a surprising finding: T cells use a movement strategy to track down parasites that is similar to strategies that predators such as monkeys, sharks and blue–fin tuna use to hunt their prey. With this new insight into immune–cell movement patterns, scientists will be able to create more accurate models of immune–system function, which may, in turn, inform novel approaches to combat diseases from cancer to HIV/AIDS to arthritis.
- March 26, 2015
Inner Weapons Against Allergies: Gut Bacteria Control Allergic Diseases, Perelman School of Medicine Study Finds
David Artis, Ph.D., Associate professor of Microbiology, along with postdoctoral fellow David Hill, Ph.D., from the Perelman School of Medicine, and collaborators from The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and institutions in Japan and Germany, have found that these commensal bacteria might play an important role in influencing and controlling allergic inflammation. The commensal relationship that develops between humans and internal bacteria is one in which both humans and bacteria derive benefits. The study, appearing this week in Nature Medicine, suggests that therapeutic targeting of immune cell responses to resident gut bacteria may be beneficial in treating allergic diseases.
- November 28, 2011
New Hope of a Cure for H.I.V.
Medical researchers are again in pursuit of a goal they had all but abandoned: curing AIDS. Until recently, the possibility seemed little more than wishful thinking. But the experiences of two patients now suggest to many scientists that it may be achievable. One man, the so–called Berlin patient, apparently has cleared his H.I.V. infection, albeit by arduous bone marrow transplants.
- September 12, 2011
An Immune System Trained to Kill Cancer
A year ago, when chemotherapy stopped working against his leukemia, William Ludwig signed up to be the first patient treated in a bold experiment at the University of Pennsylvania. Mr. Ludwig, then 65, a retired corrections officer from Bridgeton, N.J., felt his life draining away and thought he had nothing to lose. Special cell–culturing techniques may have contributed to the lab’s success. Doctors removed a billion of his T–cells — a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors — and gave them new genes that would program the cells to attack his cancer. Then the altered cells were dripped back into Mr. Ludwig’s veins. At first, nothing happened. But after 10 days, hell broke loose in his hospital room. He began shaking with chills. His temperature shot up. His blood pressure shot down. He became so ill that doctors moved him into intensive care and warned that he might die. His family gathered at the hospital, fearing the worst. A few weeks later, the fevers were gone. And so was the leukemia. Dr. Carl June, who led the research and directs translational medicine in the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania, said that the results stunned even him and his colleagues, Dr. David L. Porter, Bruce Levine and Michael Kalos.
- September 12, 2011
New leukemia treatment exceeds "wildest expectations"
Doctors have treated only three leukemia patients, but the sensational results from a single shot could be one of the most significant advances in cancer research in decades. And it almost never happened. In the research published Wednesday, doctors at the University of Pennsylvania say the treatment made the most common type of leukemia completely disappear in two of the patients and reduced it by 70 percent in the third. In each of the patients as much as five pounds of cancerous tissue completely melted away in a few weeks, and a year later it is still gone. The results of the preliminary test “exceeded our wildest expectations,” says immunologist Dr. Carl June a member of the Abramson Cancer Center’s research team.
- July 13, 2011
Penn study shows link between immune system suppression and blood vessel formation in tumors
Targeted therapies that are designed to suppress the formation of new blood vessels in tumors, such as Avastin (bevacizumab), have slowed cancer growth in some patients. However, they have not produced the dramatic responses researchers initially thought they might. Now, research from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania might help to explain the modest responses. The discovery, published in the July 14 issue of Nature, suggests novel treatment combinations that could boost the power of therapies based on slowing blood vessel growth (angiogenesis). The Penn investigators, led by George Coukos, MD, PhD, Celso–Ramon Garcia Professor of Reproductive Biology, found that ovarian cancer cells grown under low oxygen conditions—which promote blood vessel formation—secrete chemical signals that suppress the patient’s immune system, preventing it from killing off the abnormal cancer cells.
- May 10, 2011
Penn Gets $225 Million for its School of Medicine
The University of Pennsylvania has received a $225 million gift, the largest in its history, from Raymond G. Perelman and his wife, Ruth, for its medical school, which will be renamed the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Amy Gutmann, the president of the university, said the Perelmans’ gift was transformational. “It’s the triple crown for our school of medicine,” she said. “It’s going to enable us to have the best students, with enormously increased financial aid, and to recruit the most eminent faculty and provide extraordinary research.”
- March 25, 2011
Penn study leads to new idea in treating pancreatic cancer
Sometimes in science, what you get wrong can be just as important as what you get right. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine set out two years ago to prove that a new drug could marshal T cells, key players in the immune system, against pancreatic cancer. That didn’t happen. Instead, the experimental antibody turned more primitive immune-system cells that often get co–opted into helping pancreatic cancer tumors against part of the tumor structure. Tumors shrank substantially in some patients, and median survival time lengthened by two months, to 7.4 months. That doesn’t sound like much, but, with a notoriously deadly cancer, it was a step forward.
- March 3, 2011
Promising new gene therapy for HIV immunity
In a feat that is renewing hopes for conquering AIDS, researchers have genetically engineered patients’ vital immune cells to make them resistant to HIV infection. To confer this invulnerability, scientists took the immune cells from HIV–positive patients’ own blood, then snipped out a single gene—the first time such a precise alteration has been achieved on a meaningful scale. When put back in the patient, the cells no longer make a receptor that HIV needs to enter the cell, effectively blocking the virus.
- February 17, 2011
New $2.5 million Abramson family gift to fund cancer research at Penn Medicine
For years, Madlyn and Leonard Abramson have given millions of dollars to fund cancer research at Penn Medicine, including the naming of the Abramsom Cancer Center and the establishment of the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute. Penn Medicine’s largest donors have given $25.5 million more to support basic science and translational research progress in the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, which is among the nation’s preeminent incubators for drug discovery and development of new ways to diagnose and treat patients.
- February 4, 2011
Border Patrol: Immune Cells Protect Body from Invaders, According to Penn Researchers
So-called barrier sites—the skin, gut, lungs—limit the inner body’s exposure to allergens, pollutants, viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Understanding how the immune system works in these external surfaces has implications for understanding such inflammatory diseases as asthma, psoriasis, IBD, and food allergies, all of which occur at the body’s barriers. David Artis, Ph.D., professor of Microbiology and Gregory F. Sonnenberg, a predoctoral fellow in the Artis lab, have identified an immune cell population that acts as the body’s border patrol with the outside world. They discovered that these lymphoid tissue inducer cells maintain immunity in the intestine of mice. The research appeared in the most recent online issue of Immunity.
- November 7, 2010
Penn Scientists Identify New Role fo Protein Molecule that Inhibits Response of Immune-System Cells
An international group of scientists, with lead researchers in Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine and School of Medicine, has shown the unique ability of a protein subunit called IL-27p28 to bind with a key cell receptor (gp130), effectively preventing it from transmitting signals necessary for triggering an immune response. Regulating the production of the molecule could lead to new, targeted interventions for cancer, asthma, lupus, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and other diseases. “Lots of pharmaceutical companies are focused on possible targets upstream or downstream of this key receptor,” said Christopher Hunter, professor and chair of pathobiology in Penn Vet. “Here, we’ve discovered a natural molecule that limits signaling through that receptor. There’s already genetic data out there saying this protein is important in human medicine. We agree with that, but maybe it works a different way than we thought before. Then, having this information means that this natural molecule provides a new way to manage different types of inflammatory diseases.”
- October 27, 2010
Penn Study Shows Two-Sided Immune Cell Could be Harnessed to Shrink Tumors
A recently identified immune cell that directs other cells to fight infection plays a critical role in regulating the immune system in both health and disease. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have discovered how a stimulatory molecule and a protein found on the membrane of another immune cell make T helper 17 cells multi–taskers of sorts. Th17 cells protect the body against infection and cancer, but are also culprits in some autoimmune diseases and out–of–control, cancerous cell growth. This new understanding that Th17 cells manage to play both sides of the fence suggests that targeting or inhibiting the involved protein pathways might be a new way to treat cancer, chronic infection, and some autoimmune diseases. Previous studies have linked excessive amounts of Th17 cells in the body to such autoimmune diseases as multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease.