Baylor College of Medicine

Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center Front Desk

NCI renews lymphoma SPORE grant for Center for Cell and Gene Therapy

Molly Chiu


Houston, TX -

The National Cancer Institute has awarded more than $10.3 million to continue translational lymphoma research at the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston Methodist Hospital and Texas Children’s Hospital. The grant is awarded through the NCI’s Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) funding, which was established to promote collaborative, interdisciplinary translational cancer research.

The Center for Cell and Gene Therapy began receiving SPORE funding in 2007. The latest round of funding will be used to develop and test novel cellular immunotherapies in conjunction with genetically modified immune effector cells to treat non-Hodgkin lymphoma and Hodgkin lymphoma.

“We have assembled an integrated team of laboratory scientists and clinical investigators with strong track records of productive translational research to address the persistent challenges of long-term control and unacceptable rates of treatment-related toxicity in lymphoma,” said Dr. Helen Heslop, co-principal investigator and director of the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy. Heslop is a professor of medicine and pediatrics, Dan L Duncan Chair and deputy director of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor.

The SPORE will include three projects, each involving early-phase clinical trials. The first project aims to develop a safe and effective immunotherapy for non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) using engineered natural killer T (NKT) cells. Dr. Leonid Metelitsa, Dr. Carlos Ramos and Dr. Carl Allen will serve as project co-leaders. The second project aims to extend the benefits of CAR-T cells to T-cell lymphoma, where there is an unmet clinical need. Dr. Maksim Mamonkin, Dr. Malcolm Brenner, Dr. Norohiro Watanabe, Dr. LaQuisa Hill and Dr. Rayne Rouce will serve as project co-leaders. The third project aims to increase the potency and accessibility of Epstein Barr virus-specific T Cells (EBVSTs) in patients with lymphoma. Dr. Cliona Rooney, Dr. Helen Heslop and Dr. Bilal Omer will serve as project co-leaders.

“Successful completion of these studies should increase the potency and improve accessibility of these cellular immunotherapies for lymphoma,” said Dr. Malcolm Brenner, co-principal investigator and professor at the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy. Brenner also is a professor of medicine, pediatrics and molecular and human genetics, Fayez Sarofim Chair and member of the Duncan Cancer Center at Baylor.

SPORE research will be supported by an administrative core, a clinical research and biostatistics core (Dr. Tao Wang and Bambi Grilley), a GMP cell and vector production core (Dr. Natasha Lapteva and Dr. Zhuyong Mei) and a biospecimen and pathology core (Dr. Andrea Marcogliese and Dr. Youli Zu, Houston Methodist Hospital). Investigators will be supported by a developmental research program (Dr. Margaret Goodell and Dr. George Carrum) and a career enhancement program (Dr. Martha Mims and Dr. Sid Ganguly, Houston Methodist Hospital).

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