Grants - Translational Grants - Texas - 2016

Leonid Metelitsa, M.D., Ph.D.

Funded by the Buster and Kristen Posey Fund

with Recognition to Dick Vitale

In this project, we aim to develop a safe and effective treatment for a childhood cancer called neuroblastoma. Recently, there has been some success harnessing the human immune system to fight cancer. We have developed an immune-based strategy to target one specific cancer-promoting gene that is known to cause an aggressive form of neuroblastoma. This gene is present in about half of all cases with poor disease outcomes in our patient population. We developed a new cancer vaccine for this gene that causes immune cells in the body to fight cancer cells directly. A mouse version of this vaccine proved safe and potent in mice, so we think we can use the same strategy to create a clinical-grade vaccine that will be safe and effective in humans, too. In this study, we first will test each part of this vaccine separately and then will re-assemble them in a very clean laboratory room. Indeed, this vaccine will be produced under such strict conditions that it will be ready for clinical testing in children with neuroblastoma after this grant is completed. Because we are targeting a gene that is expressed on cancer cells but not on cells of healthy tissues, our vaccine is unlikely to be as toxic as others treatments that are available now in the clinic. This vaccine is easy to deliver, as it can be swallowed and so does not involve a shot, making it easier for pediatric patients.