Grants - Translational Grants - Texas - 2018

Andras Heczey, M.D.

Funded by the Constellation Gold Network Distributors in honor of the Dick Vitale Gala

Children with liver cancers are hard to cure, if the tumor cannot be removed by surgery or has spread to distant organs. Current therapies cause significant toxicity and don’t work well against large tumors. These children need new approaches and immunotherapy may be a good solution. Immunotherapy relies on the body’s own infection and cancer fighting system.

A type of immunotherapy uses special white blood cells called T cells. T cells can be collected from patients and engineered with a molecule called chimeric antigen receptor or CAR. These CAR T cells can be infused back to patients to destroy the cancer cells.

We developed several versions of CARs which recognize glypican-3. This molecule is expressed in pediatric liver cancers. We systematically tested T cells expressing these CARs in preclinical models of liver cancer. We selected the CAR with the strongest antitumor activity. Now T cells expressing this CAR will be tested in a Phase 1 clinical trial in children.

With the help of the V Foundation, we will examine changes in the genetic programming of CAR T cells. We will evaluate the CAR T cell product, peripheral blood and biopsy samples. Our goal is to define the interaction between the CAR T cells and the tumor.