Breakthrough Discovery Provides New Hope for Cancer Patients Fighting Infection

NFCR supported scientist Laurence Cooper, M.D., Ph.D., and his team at the MD Anderson Cancer Center have engineered a novel treatment for killing fungal infections that are often lethal to cancer patients with weakened immune systems.

Bethesda, MD (PRWEB) July 18, 2014

NFCR supported scientist Laurence Cooper, M.D., Ph.D., and his team at the MD Anderson Cancer Center have engineered a novel treatment for killing fungal infections that are often lethal to cancer patients with weakened immune systems.

“Too many patients die from Aspergillus infections, especially patients who undergo bone marrow transplantation,” said Dr. Cooper. Among bone marrow transplant patients, the estimated survival rate after invasive Aspergillus infection is only 15 to 40 percent. “It is clear that a new approach to this infection is desperately needed.”

Thanks to the work of Dr. Cooper and colleagues at MD Anderson, and with the help of funding from the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR), that new approach may have arrived.

Previous work by Dr. Cooper’s team, supported in part by NFCR, had successfully re-directed T cells (the white blood cells responsible for recognizing and destroying dangerous foreign cells) to treat patients with leukemia and lymphoma.

The technique involves bioengineering “chimeric antigen receptors” (CARs) – special molecules that act as “homing antennas,” which researchers can customize and attach to T cells – to direct T cells’ cell-killing abilities towards specific, pre-selected targets, including on leukemia and lymphoma cells. By taking some of the patient’s own T cells from the blood stream and genetically attaching these tumor-specific CARs, and then infusing engineered T cells back to the patients, Dr. Cooper’s team has helped unleashed the power of human immune cells’ killing machinery to fight these patients’ cancer.

Now Dr. Cooper and his team have successfully applied the same technique to killing Aspergillus cells by engineering human T cells to recognize a sugar molecule on this fungus. This new approach of targeting sugar molecules could be used to target other dangerous pathogens as well.

“We are extremely proud of what Dr. Cooper and his team have been able to achieve, and the benefits of their research are multiplying,” said Franklin Salisbury, Jr., President of the National Foundation for Cancer Research. “Funding from NFCR over the past decade has helped Dr. Cooper to bring this fantastic therapeutic approach to life, with life-saving benefits not only to cancer patients, but to a potentially much larger patient group as well.”

Dr. Laurence Cooper has received NFCR support since 2003. Dr. Cooper’s findings were published in the July 7 issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

About the National Foundation for Cancer Research

The National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR) is a leading cancer research charity dedicated to funding cancer research and public education relating to cancer prevention, earlier diagnosis, better treatments and, ultimately, a cure for cancer. NFCR promotes and facilitates collaboration among scientists to accelerate the pace of discovery from bench to bedside. NFCR is committed to Research for a Cure - cures for all types of cancer. For more information, visit http://www.nfcr.org/ or call (800) 321-CURE (2873).


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