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€2.6 Million Funding Boosts Ground-breaking CAR T Cell Therapy Study in Advanced Lymphomas

Luca Gattinoni and Matthias Edinger from the Leibniz Institute for Immunotherapy (LIT) and University Hospital Regensburg (UKR) have received a 2.6 million euro grant from the German Cancer Aid. The funding will support an innovative clinical study using stem-like CAR T cells to treat patients with advanced lymphomas.

Article Details

  • Date Published

    May 7, 2024

Aggressive lymphomas are cancers of the lymphatic tissue that cause life-threatening diseases. While chemotherapy can cure some patients, about half of them experience a disease relapse, significantly reducing their chances of survival.

CAR T cell therapy has emerged as a novel and effective treatment for blood cancers like lymphomas. This immunotherapy involves the collection of lymphocytes (T cells) from the patient’s blood. These cells are then reprogrammed in specialized laboratories such as the José-Carreras-Center at the LIT to recognize cancer cells using a synthetic receptor called CAR (chimeric antigen receptor). Despite its effectiveness, many patients still experience disease relapse.

Prof. Matthias Edinger, Prof. Luca Gattinoni, Dr. Dennis Harrer (left to right)

Professors Edinger and Gattinoni are initiating a ground-breaking study to enhance the efficacy of CAR T cell therapies. A key innovation in their strategy is the targeting of two molecules on the lymphoma cells instead of just one. This approach increases the likelihood of destroying the tumor even if one of the targets is lost upon treatment. Another problem they address is the limited expansion and persistence of CAR T cells in the patient’s body. To overcome this hurdle, the researchers will modify T memory stem cells, a specific type of T cells known for their high ability to proliferate upon detecting cancer cells and their long-term survival capacities. This innovative approach allows CAR T cells to continue attacking cancer cells, reducing the risk of disease relapse.

“This study marks the culmination of 15 years of research since we initially demonstrated the superior efficacy of T memory stem cells in preclinical models of T cell therapy,” says Prof. Gattinoni. “It’s exciting to see how far we have come, from identifying these stem-like T cells in humans to developing them in larger quantities with the desired anti-tumor specificities,” he continues.

The German Cancer Aid is funding this clinical project at University Hospital Regensburg and the Leibniz Institute for Immunotherapy for the next six years with €2.6 million. Miltenyi Biotec GmbH will also contribute to the study by supplying the CAR construct targeting the two different molecules on lymphoma cells.

“Thanks to the generous funding by the German Cancer Aid, we now have the possibility to bring this cutting-edge therapy for the first time to our patients. With our excellent infrastructure for conducting innovative therapies, we aim to improve the survival chances of patients after relapse of lymphoma. With Prof. Leo Hansmann and Dr. Dennis Harrer, I have clinical partners who will expertly support the conduction of the trial,” says Prof. Edinger.

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