$11.5 million SPORE grant spurs lymphoma research at Baylor College of Medicine, The Methodist Hospital and Texas Children's Hospital

HOUSTON -- (September 14, 2007) -- A five-year $11.5 million award from the National Cancer Institute allows physicians and scientists at Baylor College of Medicine to look for new ways to fight lymphoma and a form of chronic leukemia, in cooperation with The Methodist Hospital, Texas Children's Hospital and other affiliated institutions, including Ben Taub Hospital and the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

"This award enables a number of investigators in the Cell and Gene Therapy program and other programs of the Dan L Duncan Cancer Center as well as investigators at The Methodist Hospital Research Institute to come together, do translational research and get new treatments into the clinic as soon as possible," said Dr. Helen Heslop, the principal investigator for the new Lymphoma Special Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) and holder of the first Dan L Duncan chair. Dr. Malcolm Brenner, professor of medicine and pediatrics at BCM and director of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at BCM, The Methodist Hospital and Texas Children's Hospital, is the SPORE'S co-director. This is the third SPORE awarded to the Dan L Duncan Cancer Center.

"This will also provide funding for young scientists as well as those who want to move into lymphoma research," Heslop said.

The cooperation with the hospitals, in particular Methodist, which treats many lymphoma patients, will help speed the development of new therapies, she said.

Projects planned for the new Lymphoma SPORE include:

  • Validation of new antigens or proteins in Hodgkin's lymphoma as targets for treatment using special lymphocytes or white blood cells to attack the cancer. This treatment is planned first in patients whose disease has returned after initial treatment.
  • Engineering special T-cells that will help the immune system to target tumor cells in some types of lymphoma.
  • Improving treatment in patients with various types of lymphoma using a special type of vaccination.
  • Finding ways to overcome the treatment-blunting effects of some types of immune system cells.
  • Looking for cancer stem cells in chronic lymphocytic leukemia as possible targets for future therapies.

Five core programs – administration, clinical research, biostatistics and data management, cell and vector production and tissue bank – will provide special support to the SPORE. The program will also support a developmental research program as well as one in career development to foster pilot project in translational medicine as well as young scientists who plan to focus their work on lymphoma.

Other scientists involved in the SPORE include: Drs. Cliona Rooney, Catherine Bollard, Gianpetro Dotti, Barbara Savoldo, Patricia Yotnda, Stephen Gottschalk, Rongfu Wang, Martha Mims, Aaron Foster, Ann Leen, Terzah Horton, Adrian Gee, Heidi Weiss, Vicky Gresik, David Steffen and Margaret Goodell at BCM and Jeff Chang, Youli Zu and David Bernard at TMHRI as well as lymphoma clinicians at all the hospitals and at Texas Children's Cancer Center.