Julian A. Kim, M.D., chief of surgical oncology at UH Ireland Cancer Center, has received a $660,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health for a five-year study that hopes to lead to new treatments using a set of immune cells, called T cells, to fight skin cancer (melanoma) and breast cancer. The research project is called "Molecular studies of T cell clones for adoptive therapy."
The pre-clinical trial, which means it will be used only in human tissues in the laboratory at this stage, will focus on identifying and harvesting T cells within the lymph nodes of patients, activating these T cells and growing them in culture in the laboratory over one to two weeks. The T cells are activated with molecular agents called interleukin-2 and anti-CD3 antibody (OKT3).
It is hoped that results from this research could lead to a safety study, called a Phase I study, in humans using this process. This pre-clinical research will help researchers learn how to most effectively select and obtain the T cells for this form of therapy. In future use with humans, the cells would be grown in the cell processing facility located in the Iris S. and Bert L. Wolstein Research Building, which opened in 2003. The activated T cells would be reinfused into the bloodstream of the same patient to train their immune system to fight the cancer.
According to Kim, the Phase I study would involve about 20 patients and would open in about five years. "If these trials prove successful, a similar approach could be developed in patients with other types of cancer as well," said Kim.