- June 29, 2015
Philanthropy for Hackers
Cancer Immunotherapy research led by Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center, is detailed in a Wall Street Journal column by Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster and founding president of Facebook, in which he calls for his fellow young Internet leaders to use their talents and wealth to transform the world of philanthropy.
- June 19, 2015
Hyperlipidemia May Hike Risk of Allograft Rejection
In an editorial published in the American Journal of Transplantation in response to two new studies, Deirdre Sawinski, MD and Jonathan Maltzman, MD, PhD, both Assistant Professors of Medicine in the Renal, Electrolyte and Hypertension Division, emphasize that environmental factors can alter the response to organ transplantation. "These studies show that a high fat-diet impacts the immune response and skews it toward rejection and this suggests that avoidance of a high-fat diet in our transplant recipients may have benefits in terms of decreased rejection episodes in addition to known cardiovascular benefit," Maltzman told Reuters Health.
- June 17, 2015
Survey Reveals Americans Have Potentially Dangerous Misconceptions About Heart Failure
Nearly six million Americans currently live with heart failure, yet a recent national survey found that nearly half of those surveyed got fundamental facts about heart failure wrong, according to Medical Express. The article includes a video of Mariell Jessup, MD, an associate chief of clinical affairs in the Division of Cardiology and medical director of the Penn Medicine Heart and Vascular Center, educating people about heart failure.
- June 17, 2015
Penn Researchers Receive $2.9 Million in Awards from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund to Launch Biomedical Research Careers
Two Penn researchers, Igor Brodsky, PhD, an assistant professor of Pathobiology and Rahul M. Kohli, MD, PhD, an assistant professor of Medicine, will each receive the Investigators in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease award. This award provides $500,000 over five years to support accomplished investigators at the assistant professor level to study pathogeneises, with a focus on the interplay between human and microbial biology.
- June 16, 2015
A study by Medicine's Ran Reshef and David Porter shows that screening for high T cell counts may optimize the donor selection process for stem cell transplant patients.
- June 15, 2015
HDL Efflux Measure Predicts CHD Events
Greater HDL cholesterol efflux capacity is linked to a lower incidence of coronary heart disease events. "We were very interested to find that HDL cholesterol efflux capacity measured in healthy persons predicted risk of a future cardiovascular event even after adjusting for the HDL-C level," Daniel J. Rader, MD, who directs the Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine and Lipid Clinic Medicine and chairs the Department of Genetics, told Reuters Health. He is also the lead author of the Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology study.
- June 10, 2015
A paper by the Perelman School of Medicine's John Wherry and lab members examine how T cell exhaustion has possible implications for cancer and antiviral therapies.
- June 3, 2015
Penn researchers home in on what's wearing out Tcells
Sometimes even cells get tired. When the T cells of your immune system are forced to deal over time with cancer or a chronic infection such as HIV or hepatitis C, they can develop "T cell exhaustion," becoming less effective and losing their ability to attack and destroy the invaders of the body. While the PD-1 protein pathway has long been implicated as a primary player in T cell exhaustion, a major question has been whether PD-1 actually directly causes exhaustion. A new paper from the lab of John Wherry, PhD, a professor of Microbiology and Director of the Institute for Immunology, in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, seems to -- at least partially -- let PD-1 off the hook. The paper was published this week in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.
- May 29, 2015
Some chimpanzees infected with AIDS virus may harbor protective, humanlike gene
Beatrice Hahn, MD, a professor of Medicine and Micriobilogy, commented in an article in Science magazine about work suggesting a gene in some wild chimpanzees infected with the AIDS virus closesly resembled one that protects humans from HIV. "I'm excited about their finding an allele closely related to B57, albeit in preliminary experiments," Hagn says. "It could be protective, and it could be quickly checked by looking at all the other chimp populations that harbor SIVcpz."
- May 29, 2015
Note of Caution
Panel tests can identify cancer linked mutations. Med's Susan Domcheck and Katherine Nathanson say more research is needed to counsel patients.
- May 29, 2015
"Good" Cholesterol Function More Important Than Amount
For decades, doctors have fussed over patients' HDL, or "good" cholesterol, levels, prescribing medications to boost them if they drop below the recommended benchmark. Now, a Lancet study from Penn suggests that focus has been misplaced. Instead of sheer amount, what matters more is how well HDL works to remove fats from blood vessels. "HDL is modestly useful as a predictor of rish, but we're moving toward a time when we think measurement of HDL function might, in fact, be a better way," senior author Daniel Rader, MD, director, Preventative Cardiovascular Medicine and the Chair of the Department of Genetics, told WHYY.
- May 27, 2015
Penn Study Links Better "Good Cholesterol" Function with Lower Risk of Later Heart Disease
HDL is the “good cholesterol” that helps remove fat from artery walls, reversing the process that leads to heart disease. Yet recent drug trials and genetic studies suggest that simply pushing HDL levels higher doesn’t necessarily reduce the risk of heart disease. Now, a team led by senior author Daniel J. Rader, MD, director of the Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine and Lipid Clinic at Penn Medicine, has shown in a large, forward-looking epidemiological study that a person’s HDL function—the efficiency of HDL molecules at removing cholesterol—may be a better measure of coronary heart disease risk and a better target for heart-protecting drugs. The new study was reported in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.
- May 26, 2015
Sen. Toomey Talks Penn's Cancer Gene Therapy Accomplishments
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey delivered a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate to highlight the recent innovations in cancer reserach and the importance of federal funding for these efforts, including gene therapy research led by Carl H. June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of Translational Research in Penn's Abramson Cancer Center.
- May 19, 2015
James Hoxie, MD, director of the Penn Cener for AIDS Research, was quoted in a Scientist article on Timothy Brown, the "Berlin Patient" who was "functionally" cured of HIV. Diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, he received a stem cell transplant from a donor who had the CCR5 mutation in both parents and has remained off drugs since 2008. "Nobody would dare to use the word 'cure' before this happened," Hoxie said. But Brown's cure "has generated an entirely new field of science that we boldly call cure or eradication research."
- May 4, 2015
David Weiner and members of his laboratory in the Perelman School of Medicine received Best Academic Research Team honors at the World Vaccine Congress in Washington.
- April 28, 2015
Vet's Jorge Iván Alvarez co-led a study on a protein that helps maintain the blood-brain barrier, lessening the effects of a multiple sclerosis-like disease in an animal model.
- April 28, 2015
Honor for Excellence
Carl June, MD, Abramson Cancer Center gene therapy researcher, and received an American Associate for Cancer Research award for his innovative work in immunology.
- April 27, 2015
Immunotherapy Takes Center Stage at Annual Cancer Meeting in Philly
Cancer researchers and oncologists gathered in Philadelphia last week for the 2015 AACR Annual Meeting, where a lot of focus was on immunotherapy, reports WHYY. The piece featured an abstract from Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, a professor in the division of Hematology/Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center and David Bajor, MD, and instructor of Hematology/Oncology, on a new combination of immune drugs for melanoma patients. Out of 24 participants, two patients went into complete remission and four others improved. "These types of extraordinary responses achieved by immuntherapy are actually becoming ordinary," said Vonderheide. "Patients are walking away from their cancer forever."
- April 27, 2015
Pablo Tebas, Carl June and Bruce Levine from Medicine's Center for AIDS Research received a prestigious award for their personalized gene therapy work in HIV.
- April 24, 2015
A study led by David Bajor and Robert Vonderheide of the Abramson Cancer Center found a combination of treatments is sage and elicitys a clinical response in melanoma patients.
- April 20, 2015
Cancer Drug Shines Against Skin, Lung Cancer
The immunotherapy drug known as PD-1 bested the stadard of care in advanced melanoma, researchers reported at the 2015 AACR Annual Meeting. Patients on pembrolizumab (PD-1) had better overall survival and progression free survival rates compared to patients on ipilimumab. "Again and again, new immune therapies are producing meaningful outcomes for our patients", Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, a professor of Medicine in the division of Hematology/Oncology at the Abramson Cancer Center told Forbes. " The breakthrough drug approved four years ago is now seemingly surpassed, with less toxicity."
- April 17, 2015
Cancer Nonprofit Aims to Raise More Money, Profile
The American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, expected to draw over 18,000 cancer researchers and physicians from around the world, begins this weekend in Philadelphia, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It's a stunning meeting," said Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, professor of Medicine in the division of Hematology/Oncology in the Abramson Cancer Center. "It instigates collaborations. It helps fund our work. It provides a voice for the work we do."
- April 15, 2015
Changing Lives Through Donating Kidneys to Strangers
In continuing coverage, a segment from Nightline features Penn patients Michele and Matt Crane, and their kidney transplant surgeons, Peter Abt, MD, associate professor of Surgery, and Ali Naji, MD, PHD, surgical director of the Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Program. Last month, Matt and Michele participated in what is now the longest multi-hospital kidney transplant chain in U.S. history. Over the course of three months, 68 lives were changed when 34 kidneys were swapped between 26 different hospitals across the nation. "It is a huge operation, but it's driven by the hears and minds of people who want to do it. If there was no love in this, it wouldn't happen," said Naji.
- April 14, 2015
Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancers: Moving Toward More Precise Prevention
In continuing coverage, a post from Dr. Francis Collins to his NIH Director's Blog reports on the recent Penn-led study published in JAMA which found that among women with mutations in BRCA1/2 genes, the answer to whether a particular individual will develop breast cancer, ovarian cancer, both types of cancer, or neither cancer appears to vary considerably depending upon the precise type of mutation inherited and the locations of these mutations in the DNA sequences of the genes. The post states that the new work by Timothy Rebbeck, PhD, associate professor of Population Science in the Abramson Cancer Center, Katherine L. Nathanson, MD, associate professor of Medicine and director of Genetics in the Basser Center for BRCA, and collegues represents a significant step toward more precise and individualized risk calculations.
- April 14, 2015
A study led by Timothy Rebbeck, PhD and Katherine Nathanson, MD of Medicine found that the risk of breast and ovarian cancer differs depending on a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation.
- April 13, 2015
10 Questions: Mariell Jessup, MD
In a Medpage Today "10 Questions" article, Mariell Jessup, MD, associate chief of clinical affairs in the division of Cardiology and medical director of the Penn Medicine Heart and Vascular Center, shares her thoughts on a variety of topics - from treatment barriers to advice to other physicians.
- April 9, 2015
Comparing Immunotherapy to Other Cancer Weapons
A Philadelphia Inquirer story examines progress in various types of immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer. "We have tried to learn from the early days of gene therapy and avoid the hype," said Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of Translational Research in Abramson Cancer Center. "What I say in general is, it's the early days, so we don't know everything. We need to have decades of observations. But so far, the toxicity [of immunotherapy] has been less" than conventional oncology weapons.
- April 8, 2015
Penn Medicine, Abramson Cancer Center Team Continues Progress in Investigational Gene Therapy for Blood Cancers
The University of Pennsylvania research team behind pioneering studies of an investigational personalized cellular therapy for blood cancers has announced that the United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued several new patents on technologies related to this therapy, known as CTL019. "We are proud to have successfully treated patients with advanced leukemia and lymphoma and to continue refining this therapy and developing new CARs to treat other types of cancers." said Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, and director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center.
- April 8, 2015
Breast vs. Ovarian Cancer Risks Vary for Women with Different Gene Mutations, Penn Study Finds
In continuing coverage, WHYY radio reported on a new study from Penn researchers which shows that the type and location of BRCA mutation helps determine whether women are more likely to develop breast or ovarian cancer. "It doesn't mean you won't get breast cancer or you won't get ovarian cancer," said senior author Katherine L. Nathanson, MD, associate professor of Medicine and director of Genetics in the Basser Center for BRCA and chief oncogenomics physician in the Abramson Cancer Center. "There's just some relative differences depending on where the mutation is." Lead author Timothy Rebbect, PhD, associate professor of Population Sciences in the Abramson Cancer Center, was quoted in outlets across the nation, including Reuters Health, Health Day, and NBC News.
- April 1, 2015
Valder Arruda, MD, PhD and Julie Crudele of CHOP and the Perelman School of Medicine have produced a mutant protein with high blood-clotting power to treat hemophilia in dogs.
- March 30, 2015
Ken Burns Cancer Documentary of PBS to Focus on Penn Immunotherapy Advance
A three-part PBS film "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies," presented by Ken Burns, will feature the story of the first pediatric patient to receive Penn's modified T cell therapy for leukemia. Carl June, MD, a professor in the department of Pathology and Laboratoy Medicine and director of Translational Research in Penn's 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, are featured in the film, along with Emily Whitehead and her parents, Tom and Kari Whitehead. Multiple news outlets covered Penn's role in the fil, which ends with an examination of promising Immunotherapies. The film, which is based on the Pullitzer Prize-winning book, "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer." will air on PBS affiliates across the United States from 9-11 pm for three consecutive evenings, beginning tonight. Emily Whitehead's story appears in the film's final night, April 1.
- March 27, 2015
Gene Counselors Expect Resurgence of 'Jolie Effect'
In continuing coverage of Angelia Jolie Pits's decision to publicly discuss preventive measures taken to reduce the risk of cancers associated with BRCA mutations, Nature reports on the state of genetic testing. Thousands of possible mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes elevate a woman's risk of deloping cancer, but it is impossible to say whether many of these mutaions predispose someone to cancer, because researchers have not seen them enough to know their effects with statistical certainty. "As more and more people are tested, and you identify more and more people with a certain variant, it can go from being a variant of unknown significance to a benign variant, it can grow from being a variant of unknown significance to a benign variant," says Katherine Nathanson, MD associate professor of Medicine and director of Genetics at the Basser Research Center for BRCA in the Abramson Cancer Center.
- March 24, 2015
Penn Immunology Program Ranks High in the US News List
The Immunology Graduate Group is #6 again this year 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.
- March 24, 2015
Right Now at Penn: Finding a Cure for Cancer
Researchers like Carl June, MD of the Perelman School of Medicine are investigating a potential cancer cure by using manipulated virus cells to achieve remission.
- March 23, 2015
Carl June, MD of Medicine, an expert on cancer and HIV, has been awarded the 2015 Paul Ehrilich and Ludwig Darmstaedter for his work in immunotherapy.
- March 18, 2015
Experimental Therapy Trains Immune Cells to Hunt and Kill Blood Cancers
A PBS NewsHour segment traces the story of Penn Medicine's work developing and testing an experimental personalized cellular therapy for cancer, highlighting both promising results in clinical trials for patients with blood cancers and the potential of the therapy in a newly launched trial for patients with brain cancer. Members of the research team including Carl June, MD, David Porter, MD, Marcela Maus, MD, PhD, and Donald O'Rourke, MD are quoted in the story, along with a leukemia patient who is in remission after receiving the therapy last year.
- March 17, 2015
A study led by Medicine's Andy Minn, MD, PhD suggests that radiation along with two immunotherapies may be more effective in helping shrink metastatic melanoma tumors.
- March 10, 2015
Radiation Plus Immunotherapy Combo Revs up Immune System to Better Attack Metastatic Melanoma, Penn Study Suggests
Treating metastatic melanoma with a triple threat - including radiation therapy and two immunotherapies that target the CTLA4 and PD-1 pathways - could elicit an optimal response in more patients, one that will boost the immune system's attack on the disease, suggests a new study from a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Penn's Abramson Cancer Center published today in Nature. The study was led by authors Andy J. Minn, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Radiation Onclolgy, Robert Vonderheide, MD, DPhil, the Hanna Wise Professor in Cancer Research, Amit Maity, MD, PhD, professor of Radiation and Oncology, E. John Wherry, PhD, professor of Microbiology and director of the Institute for Immunology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and Lynn M. Schuchter, MD chief of Hematology/Oncology at Penn's Abramson Cancer Center.
- March 3, 2015
Two Strains of HIV Cut Vastly Different Paths
Two of the four known groups of human AIDS viruses (HIV-1 groups O and P) have originated in western lowland gorillas, according to an international team of scientists. They conducted a comprehensive survey of simian immunodeficiency viral infection in African gorillas, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Coauthor Beatrice Hahn, MD, a professor of Medicine and Microbiology, was quoted in several outlets, including the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.
- March 2, 2015
Two of the four groups of human AIDS viruses originated in western lowland African gorillas, according to research by Beatrice Hahn, MD of the Perelman School of Medicine.
- March 2, 2015
A VICE special report on efforts to treat cancer using the power of viruses and other immunotherapeutic approaches profiled Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the 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. Two pediatric patients who participated in the clinical trials of the Penn-developed cellular therapy known as CRL019 were also featured in the show.
- February 20, 2015
Biomarker Levels Associated with IRIS in Patients with HIV, TB
Reporting in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, Shruthi Ravimohan, PhD, a research associate in the division of Infectious Diseases, and Gregory P. Bisson, MD, MSCE, an assistant professor in the division of Infectious Diseases and a senior scholar at the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, evaluated over 200 patients in Botswana before and after they began antiretroviral therapy, and found several immune biomarkers that may help better stratify patients, and guide future research and treatments before HIV treatment begins.
- February 17, 2015
NIH researchers reveal link between powerful gene regulatory elements and autoimmune diseases
Investigators with the National Institutes of Health have discovered the genomic switches of a blood cell key to regulating the human immune system. The findings, published in Nature today, open the door to new research and development in drugs and personalized medicine to help those with autoimmune disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis. The lead author, Golnaz Vahedi, Ph.D., will be joining the Perelman School of Medicine in May 2015 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics.
- February 16, 2015
Cancer Gene Therapy Moves Ahead
A Fox News segment details progress in Penn's gene therapy trials for blood cancers, including the story of a patient who was one of the first participants in studies to test this new approach, who remains cancer-free more than four years later. One of the trial's leaders, David Porter, MD, a professor of Hematology-Oncology and director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center, is quoted in the story, and in a San Diego Union Tribune article recapping the results of the trials so far.
- February 16, 2015
The Future of Precision Medicine
David Roth, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Personalized Diagnostics and chair of the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, explained to the audience of SiriusXM's "POTUS" radio show that precision medicine helps diagnose individuals more accurately. Doctors are able to pinpoint a particular kind of illness a patient has and treat it more effectively, instead of a process of trial and error.
- February 16, 2015
Physician Turned Patient Finds Low Fat Good for His Heart
A Philadelphia Inquirer article asks: Can a modified vegan diet -- heavy of tofu, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low on saturated and trans fats -- significantly help with heart disease? Daniel Rader, MD director of the Preventative Cardiovascular Program, says that avoiding saturated and trans fats is the most important dietary change one can make to reduce the risk of heart disease.
- February 10, 2015
Is Your Heart Older Than You Are?
A Prevention magazine article about improving your "heart age" includes advice from Daniel Rader, MD, director of the Preventative Cardiovascular Program. He says that for someone with a family history of heart disease, in addition to leading a healthy lifestyle, taking a statin can further reduce the risk of a heart attack.
- February 9, 2015
A somatic gene mutation is a potential molecular marker for rare adrenal tumors, according to research by Katherine Nathanson and Lauren Fisbein of Medicine.
- February 9, 2015
Inflammation Application: How Tumor-Causing Cells are Recruited in Cancers Linked to Chronic Inflammatory Diseases
Investigators including, Dmitry Gabrilovich, MD, PhD have demonstrated what is happening at a cellular level that allows for chronic inflammation to cause a variety of cancers; inflammatory conditions are associated with a specific phenotype of myeloid cells called immature granulocytic cells, they report.
- February 9, 2015
Immune Biomarkers Help Predict Early Death, Complications in HIV Patients with TB, Penn Study Finds
Doctors treating patients battling both HIV and tuberculosis (TB) - many of whom live in Africa are faced with the decision when to start those patients on entrepreneurial therapy (ART) while they are being treated with antibiotics for active TB disease. Reporting in a new study published online this week in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers under the Botswana-UPenn Partnership, including Shruthl Ravimohan, PhD, a research associate in the division of Infectious Disease, and Gregory P. Bisson, MD, MSCE an Assistant Professor in the division of Infectious Diseases, have identified immune biomarkers in these patients before they begin ART.
- February 6, 2015
Mosquitoes Ramp Up Immune Defenses After Sucking Blood, Penn Vet Researcher Finds
University of Pennsylvania and Imperial College London researchers learned in a new study that after ingesting a meal of blood, mosquitoes ramp up production of immune system proteins that help fight off the parasites that blood might contain. "This appears to be a new mechanism by which the mosquito is anticipating a parasite infection," said Michael Povelones, an assistant professor in Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine, who coauthored the study. A greater understanding of how mosquitoes naturally fight off infection could offer a strategy for preventing humans from getting infected with those same pathogens.
- January 29, 2015
Slow-healing wounds are a serious problem for diabetics. A study led by Dental Medicine's Dana Graves has identified a molecule that may be responsible.
- 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 Patients 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 Breakthrough 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.