Through its Impact Grants, the Cancer Research Institute funds projects that aim to advance defined scientific and technological goals. These awards stem from ongoing collaborations with individual donors and nonprofit organizations, and aim to address major challenges that would otherwise limit progress in cancer immunotherapy research and drug development.
On March 8, 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a combination of the immunotherapy TECENTRIQ® (atezolizumab, a PD-L1 checkpoint inhibitor) along with the chemotherapy Abraxane (nab-paclitaxel) for treatment of locally advanced or metastasized triple-negative breast cancer. As immunotherapy becomes routinely used in breast cancer patients, there is a critical need to collect clinical data as well as biospecimens to better understand how these agents will be used by practicing oncologists. The Translational Resource for Immuno-Biology to Understand Therapeutic Efficacy (TRIBUTE) biorepository will help researchers to more accurately characterize adverse events in the real world setting, to identify biomarkers of response to therapy as well as risk for toxicity, and to clarify the impact immunotherapy agents have on the tumor microenvironment. CRI partnered with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and PICI to undertake this project, following a group workshop on immunotherapy in breast cancer in August 2018. TRIBUTE is led by Elizabeth Mittendorf, M.D., Ph.D., of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Glioma Target Study
Brain cancer has a variety of mutations, a difficult tumor microenvironment, and the natural protection of the brain's defenses--making it a particular challenge to treat with immunotherapy. The Cancer Research Institute has launched a new study to address this challenge in collaboration with the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy. Researchers at City of Hope, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Stanford, UCLA, and UCSF are identifying new immunotherapy targets for the treatment of aggressive brain tumors in children and adults. This work on cell and gene therapy may apply to all solid tumors in future.
MIBI Glioma Study
New therapies are urgently needed for patients diagnosed with gliomas, rare but often lethal tumors of the brain and spinal cord. Exciting outcomes in patients have been seen recently with the use of various immunotherapies. However, further insights into brain tumor immunobiology are needed to guide rational selection and enhance efficacy. This CRI-funded study will use Multiplexed Ion Beam Imaging (MIBI) to image intact, well-annotated glial tumor tissue from pediatric and adult patients in response to vaccine, checkpoint inhibitor, and cellular therapies. This dataset will inform therapeutic strategies based on the presence of tumor targets, expression of immune inhibitory proteins, and the types and functional statuses of T cells and myeloid cells within the context of an intact tumor microenvironment. The tumor and immune characteristics will be analyzed and interpreted in the context of patient outcome as well as molecular or other clinical characteristics.
The Immunotherapy Promise, a collaboration between the Cancer Research Institute (CRI)and Israel Cancer Research Fund (ICRF), will provide funding for qualified scientists at leading universities and research centers throughout Israel with the goal of advancing our understanding of cancer immunotherapy and developing life-extending therapies, novel diagnostic approaches, and/or prevention strategies.
In partnership with Sage Bionetworks (Sage) and the Institute for Systems Biology (ISB), the Cancer Research Institute iAtlas is an online database and web resource designed to help basic and clinical researchers navigate immunological data across multiple tumor types.
The Cancer Research Institute (CRI) and the Focused Ultrasound Foundation (FUSF) established a partnership with the goal of advancing the development of new focused ultrasound (FUS) and cancer immunotherapy treatments. Grant projects address critical unanswered research questions that will help move the field towards new device/drug combination therapies.
In December 2012, CRI and Stand Up to Cancer (SU2C), announced their co-funding of the Cancer Immunology Translational Research Dream Team, whose research has focused on optimizing immunological checkpoint blockade combined with adoptive T cell transfer, two highly promising approaches to cancer immunotherapy.
In 2016, the Cancer Research Institute partnered with the Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation (FCF), a nonprofit organization devoted to funding research in a rare but deadly form of liver cancer called fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma (FHC), to provide $641,500 to four outstanding scientists whose research is focused on developing immunotherapies for patients with FHC.
In 2017, Fight Colorectal Cancer (Fight CRC) and the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) partnered to bring immunotherapy expertise to bear on the challenges of treating Collorectal Cancer. This two-year grant will provide $400,000 to an outstanding scientist whose research will help develop new strategies for effectively treating colorectal cancer patients with immunotherapy.