The Faris Foundation Immunotherapy Scholar Award
A grant of $300,000 over two years, awarded to Dr. Sujith K. Joseph (Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Childrens Cancer Center), for his project “Developing Sarcoma-specific T-cell Platform for Grafting Chimeric Antigen Receptors.”
Sarcoma is an aggressive childhood cancer affecting bones and soft tissues. Clinical success remains limited for children whose cancer has spread. Immunotherapy uses patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer. We introduce an artificial molecule called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) on immune cells. The CAR introduced T cells can identify and kill cancer cells in a targeted manner.
CAR T cells have shown benefit to patients in early clinical testing. A clinical trial at our center tests for the safety of this CAR T cells targeting HER2 protein. In this trial, a child with rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer, achieved complete cure. We observed activation of the patient’s own immune system following CAR T cell treatment. Furthermore, we identified various tumor proteins targeted by the patient’s own immune system. These proteins participated in uncontrolled cell growth, cancer spread and cell invasion. Some of these proteins had expression limited to or elevated on cancer cells. We are validating these proteins as sarcoma targets with immune potential. Once validated, we will develop sarcoma-specific T cells for cancer therapy.