Grants - Virginia - V Scholar Grants - 2018

Daniel Lee, M.D.

Funded by the Hirsch Family and the Dick Vitale Gala in memory of Ann Hirsch

Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) is a fatal brain tumor in children for which the only treatment is radiation and chemotherapy. Sadly, this only results in a temporary relief of the symptoms. Almost all children die of this brain tumor within one year of diagnosis. There is no cure for DIPG. Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells are a new kind of therapy that has been wildly successful in children with leukemia where there was no hope for a cure. A T cell is a type of immune cell in the body. With CAR T cell therapy, we permanently give the patient’s own T cells a new molecule that shows it how to target then kill the cancer. Dr. Lee was one of the first in the world to treat children with leukemia with CAR T cell therapy and is an expert on its side effects. It has saved many lives so far. Dr. Lee is now making a new CAR in the lab that will recognize and kill DIPG tumors. His approach will be unique because he will add in a way to make the therapy safer and more effective. Once he has made this new CAR, Dr. Lee will use the facilities at the University of Virginia to make DIPG-targeted CAR T cells for patients as part of a planned clinical trial.