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The Fruits of Our Funding

Published: 2017-04-27 |

Author: Andrea Greif |

Source: Leukemia & Lymphoma Scociety

In just the past three years, we've seen a plethora of new therapies approved to treat patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia and multiple myeloma. And the rapid advancing field of cancer immunotherapy has produced several novel approaches to treat cancer patients by activating their own immune systems to fight the cancer. Meanwhile, as we learn more about the underlying causes of cancer, scientist are becoming better at targeting the cancer-causing molecular mutations while sparing the healthy tissue, through a "precision medicine" approach to treatment.

But while it feels like these revolutionary changes are happening at warp speed, the truth is these advances in cancer treatment are the result of long-term investment in basic research and early clinical studies. And for decades, The Leukemia & Lymphoma (LLS) has been leading the way, investing in ressearch aimed at harnessing the immune system to fight cancer, a concept that seemed reasonable yet for years good results remained elusive.

Today, we are finally seeing the investment pay off. In just the past week, three innovative therapies, all advanced with significant LLS investment, have taken a step toward approval. Two companies, Novartis and Kite Pharma, both developing immunotherapies called CAR-T personalized cellular therapy, have sumitted applications to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) for approval. LLS has supported both of these.

The Novartis thereapy, which is under review to treat children and young adults with relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia, originated in the lab led by Carl June, M.D. and his team at the University of Pennsylvania and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. LLS has supported this work for two decades with a total of $21 million.

Kite Pharma has been LLS's partner since 2015 through our Therapy Acceleration Program (TAP), a strategic initiative to partner directly with biotechnology companies to accelerate cures, now in its 10 year. Kite's submission to the FDA is for lymphoma patients who have relapsed or are resistant to previous therapies.

The CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor) cellular therapies under review work by taking the patient's own immune T-cells from the body and reprogramming them so they are trained to find and kill the cancer cells. Outcomes for some of the patients treated this way have been truly remarkable. Some patients, who appeared to have run out of options for treatment, are now cancer-free three or four years after treatment.

LLS has also been leading the offensive against acute leukemia (AML), one of the most deadly blood cancers for which standard care remained relatively unchanged more than 40 years. We've launched the Beat AML Master Trial taking a precision medicine approach to identify the genetic subtypes of AML so patients can receive an appropriate targeted therapy for their cancer.

 

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