Public Release: 

Investigators develop activated T cell therapy for advanced melanoma

Research by UH Seidman Cancer Center published in Journal of Immunotherapy leads to launch of clinical trial

University Hospitals Case Medical Center

CLEVELAND - T cells from patients with melanoma can trigger a protective immune response against the disease according to a new study out of University Hospitals Case Medical Center Seidman Cancer Center and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Published in the July/August issue of Journal of Immunotherapy, these new findings demonstrate that T cells derived from lymph nodes of patients with melanoma can be expanded in number and activated in the laboratory for intravenous administration in the treatment of patients. Led by Julian Kim, MD, Chief Medical Officer at UH Seidman Cancer Center, the research team has developed a novel technique to generate large numbers of activated T cells which can be transferred back into the same patient to stimulate the immune system to attack the cancer.

"This study is unique in that the source of T cells for therapy is derived from the lymph node, which is the natural site of the immune response against pathogens as well as cancer," says Dr. Kim who is also Professor of Surgery at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the Charles Hubay Chair at UH Case Medical Center. "These encouraging results provide the rationale to start testing the transfer of activated T cells in a human clinical trial."

In his research laboratory at the School of Medicine, Dr. Kim and his team developed a new method to grow and activate immune cells in a two-week culture. Immune cells are extracted from lymph nodes which have been exposed to growing melanoma in the patient's body. Rather than trying to activate the T cells while in the body, the lymph nodes are surgically removed so that the activation process and growth of the T cells can be tightly regulated in a laboratory. This novel approach to cancer treatment, termed adoptive immunotherapy, is only offered at a few institutions worldwide.

These promising findings have led to the recent launch of a new Phase I human clinical trial at UH Seidman Cancer Center in patients with advanced melanoma. The research leading to the clinical trial was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. The new Phase I clinical trial is being supported by University Hospitals as well as a significant philanthropic effort including the Immunogene Therapy Fund, Paula and Ronald Raymond Fund and the Kathryn and Paula Miller Family Fund.

"The infusion of activated T cells has demonstrated promising results and is an area of great potential for the treatment of patients with cancer," said Dr. Kim. "We are really excited that our method of activating and expanding T cells is practical and may be ideal for widespread use. Our goal is to eventually combine these T cells with other immune therapies which will result in cures. These types of clinical trials place the UH Seidman Cancer Center at the forefront of immune therapy of cancer."

Additionally, the research team has been researching the possibility of using lymph nodes from patients with pancreatic cancer to develop T cell therapy. Their goal is to expand the program and eventually study other tumor types including lung, colorectal and breast cancers.

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Study co-authors include the primary and secondary authors Mei Zhang and Hallie Graor as well as Anthony Visioni, Madeleine Strohl, Lu Yan and Kevin Caja

About University Hospitals

University Hospitals serves the needs of patients through an integrated network of hospitals, outpatient centers and primary care physicians. At the core of our health system is University Hospitals Case Medical Center. The primary affiliate of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, University Hospitals Case Medical Center is home to some of the most prestigious clinical and research centers of excellence in the nation and the world, including cancer, pediatrics, women's health, orthopedics and spine, radiology and radiation oncology, neurosurgery and neuroscience, cardiology and cardiovascular surgery, organ transplantation and human genetics. Its main campus includes the internationally celebrated UH Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital, ranked among the top children's hospitals in the nation; UH MacDonald Women's Hospital, Ohio's only hospital for women; and UH Seidman Cancer Center, part of the NCI-designated Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve University. University Hospitals Case Medical Center is the 2012 recipient of the American Hospital Association - McKesson Quest for Quality Prize for its leadership and innovation in quality improvement and safety.

For more information, go to http://www.uhhospitals.org

About Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

Founded in 1843, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine is the largest medical research institution in Ohio and is among the nation's top medical schools for research funding from the National Institutes of Health. The School of Medicine is recognized throughout the international medical community for outstanding achievements in teaching. The School's innovative and pioneering Western Reserve2 curriculum interweaves four themes--research and scholarship, clinical mastery, leadership, and civic professionalism--to prepare students for the practice of evidence-based medicine in the rapidly changing health care environment of the 21st century. Nine Nobel Laureates have been affiliated with the School of Medicine.

Annually, the School of Medicine trains more than 800 MD and MD/PhD students and ranks in the top 25 among U.S. research-oriented medical schools as designated by U.S. News & World Report's "Guide to Graduate Education."

The School of Medicine's primary affiliate is University Hospitals Case Medical Center and is additionally affiliated with MetroHealth Medical Center, the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and the Cleveland Clinic, with which it established the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in 2002. http://casemed.case.edu

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