Announcing the Gloria R. Levin Melanoma Research Fund

The American Cancer Society estimates more than 76,000 new cases of Melanoma will be diagnosed in 2013 and approximately 10,000 will lose their lives to this deadly disease.

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Gloria R. Levin

Houston, Texas (PRWEB) January 28, 2013

The American Cancer Society estimates more than 76,000 new cases of Melanoma will be diagnosed in 2013 and approximately 10,000 will lose their lives to this deadly disease. Ten years ago this month, Cynthia Moulton lost her mother to melanoma. Cindy, along with her brother, sister, and father, are honored to announce the creation of the Gloria R. Levin Melanoma Research Fund in memory of their beloved mother and wife. The Research Fund will support research by the world-renowned Dr. Malcolm Brenner and his team in conjunction with The Methodist Hospital in Houston.

Drs. Brenner, Cliona Rooney and Helen Heslop have been using a component of the patients own immune system called T cells to fight cancers.
They had initial successes treating cancers caused by certain viruses, and their approach is now widely established for Epstein Barr virus associated cancers. The group is collaborating with a biotechnology company who has raised funds to develop a “late-phase” clinical study that will allow this treatment to become standard of care for many lymphomas. Dr. Brenner’s group has been adapting these cells so they can fight other types of cancer as well. They have genetically engineered patients’ cells so that they have on their surface an artificial structure that allows them to recognize cancer cells and kill them. They tested this approach with some success in a childrens’ cancer called neuroblastoma. Three of 11 children with advanced, relapsed and treatment-resistant disease had a complete response; because the artificial T cells are able to remain in the body and eliminate any recurring cancer cells, two of the patients remain free of cancer up to 3 years later.

Dr. Brenner’s group are now going to apply this same approach for melanoma, using a similar artificial structure but with important modifications that they hope will make it more potent and as a result be able to produce disease responses in a higher proportion of patients. Because this higher potency may cause higher risks of toxicity, the team has incorporated a new “safety-switch” in the T cells that they developed and reported 18 months ago in the New England Journal of Medicine. This will allow the cells to be killed by giving the patient a drug called AP1901 if they cause problems. This study has now received all local and Federal approvals and will begin as soon as manufacturing of the special receptor is complete in 2-3 months.

The Gloria R. Levin Melanoma Research Fund will be used to support critical monitoring studies of the patients after they have been treated so that investigators can discover the fate of the artificial T cells and how well they work. This information will allow them to fine-tune the treatment approach and ensure it has the most benefit with the least toxicity.

Donations to the Fund may be mailed to:

Linda Pander
Center for Cell and Gene Therapy - BCM
The Methodist Hospital
6565 Fannin, M964
Houston, TX 77030
Phone: 713-441-6220
Fax: 713-793-1232

Please make checks payable to:
Gloria R. Levin Melanoma Research Fund

Dr. Brenner and his team may be contacted at:

mkbrenne(at)txch(dot)org
heheslop(at)txch(dot)org


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