Baylor College of Medicine

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Allen S. Kramer/Texas Children’s Hospital
Meenakshi Hegde Lab
Dr. Meenakshi Hegde in the lab at Texas Children's Cancer Center.

The Faris Foundation grant funds research for advanced sarcoma clinical trial

Molly Chiu


Houston, TX -

Dr. Meenakshi Hegde, assistant professor of pediatrics – hematology and oncology at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Cancer Center, and her team were awarded a $1.4 million gift over three years from The Faris Foundation to support a clinical trial of a novel form of immunotherapy for children with recurrent or refractory sarcomas.

This trial, known as the HEROS 3.0 trial, will evaluate chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells that are targeted against HER2, a growth protein that is found on the surface of some cancer cells. CAR T cells, which are specially altered T cells that fight cancer, will be administered in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors, such as the PD1 antibody.

The HEROS 3.0 trial is the first-in-human study of HER2 chimeric antigen receptor T cells in combination with immune checkpoint blockade to treat advanced sarcoma. Researchers aim to define the optimal dose and assess the safety of CAR T cells plus immune checkpoint blockade in children with high-risk sarcoma.

The HEROS 3.0 clinical trial is the result of over a decade of research by Hegde and her mentor, Dr. Nabil Ahmed, associate professor of pediatrics – hematology and oncology at Baylor. In their prior clinical trial, children and young adults with advanced HER2-expressing sarcoma tolerated the HER2 CAR T cell infusion well, and some had clinical benefit. In the current trial, in addition to defining the safety and anti-tumor effect of the combination therapy, the researchers will study whether the combined approach can boost the vaccine effect. The information gathered could help Hegde and her team improve the way CAR T cell treatments are delivered to children with sarcomas and other solid tumors. Long term, this could impact the effectiveness of CAR T cells against solid tumors and lead to more positive clinical outcomes. Because these research findings are shared with physicians and researchers nationally and internationally, children from around the world could benefit from the discoveries and treatment approaches developed by physician-scientists and researchers at Texas Children’s Cancer Center.

Dr. Shoba Navai, assistant professor of pediatrics – hematology and oncology at Baylor, will work with Hegde as a co-leader of the HEROS 3.0 clinical trial to be conducted at Texas Children’s Cancer Center. Other Baylor team members involved in conducting biomarker studies include Ahmed, Dr. Sujith Joseph and Dr. Jason Yustein, who is the director of the Faris D. Virani Ewing Sarcoma Center.

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