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Penn immunotherapy pioneer Carl June awarded Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize

University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

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IMAGE: This is Carl H. June, M.D. view more

Credit: Candace diCarlo

FRANKFURT, Germany - University of Pennsylvania cancer and HIV expert Carl June, MD, has been named one of two recipients of the 2015 Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize for his outstanding work in cancer immunotherapy. Since 1952, the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize has been awarded to scientists who have made great advancements in the fields in which Paul Ehrlich worked, in particular immunology, cancer research, microbiology, and chemotherapy. The prize is presented each year on March 14, the anniversary of Paul Erhlich's birthday, in Frankfurt, Germany.

June is the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and director of Translational Research in Penn's Abramson Cancer Center.

He is widely recognized as leader of the team responsible for the first successful and sustained demonstration of the use of CAR T cell therapy, an investigational approach in which a patient's cells are removed through an apheresis process similar to dialysis and modified in Penn's cell and vaccine production facility. Scientists there reprogram the patients' T cells through a gene modification technique using a viral vector that trains them to recognize specific types of cancer cells. The modified cells - known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells - are then infused back into the patient's body, where they multiply, hunt and attack tumor cells.

The latest results of clinical trials of more than 125 patients showed a response rate of 90 percent among pediatric and adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia patients. Among patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, the earliest group the research team began clinical trials with, in 2010, about 50 percent of patients respond to the therapy, and remissions among some of the first patients treated with the approach now exceed four and a half years. Early results in studies of patients with lymphoma and myeloma are also promising, and clinical trials are now underway to test this approach in patients with solid tumors.

June has published more than 350 manuscripts and has received numerous prizes and honors, including election to the Institute of Medicine in 2012, the William B. Coley award, the Karl Landsteiner Memorial Award from the AABB, the Richard V. Smalley Memorial Award from the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer, the Philadelphia Award, and the Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence. In 2014 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

June is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. He received graduate training in Immunology and malaria at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, and post-doctoral training in transplantation biology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

James P. Allison, PhD, a professor at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, also received this year's Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize.

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Penn Medicine is one of the world's leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $4.9 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 17 years, according to U.S. News & World Report's survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation's top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $409 million awarded in the 2014 fiscal year.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System's patient care facilities include: The Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania -- recognized as one of the nation's top "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; Chester County Hospital; Penn Wissahickon Hospice; and Pennsylvania Hospital -- the nation's first hospital, founded in 1751. Additional affiliated inpatient care facilities and services throughout the Philadelphia region include Chestnut Hill Hospital and Good Shepherd Penn Partners, a partnership between Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network and Penn Medicine.

Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2014, Penn Medicine provided $771 million to benefit our community.

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