The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Commits $28.6 Million to New Cancer Research Funding

Wednesday, September 30, 2015
White Plains, N.Y. (September 30, 2015) 
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) today announced it has committed $28.6 million in new research investment to advance the most promising blood cancer science at leading academic and medical institutions around the world, including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College and MD Anderson Cancer Center. As LLS leads the charge to find cures for cancer patients, this new funding, along with ongoing investment in LLS’s aggressive research agenda, brings LLS’s total commitment to blood cancer research to more than $1 billion. The investment has led to the development of nearly every therapy currently used to treat the blood cancers.

Along with these new research grants, LLS remains committed to collaborating with biotechnology companies through its innovative Therapy Acceleration Program® (TAP), a model pioneered by LLS in the cancer arena in recognition that traditional research approaches weren’t yielding treatments and cures fast enough for patients. LLS commits approximately $13 million a year to its TAP initiatives. As part of the 24 current such collaborations, LLS recently initiated new investments with Kite Pharma and OncoPep.

Through TAP and its academic grants, LLS is funding science to advance personalized medicine, multiple approaches to immunotherapy, and other leading-edge research to find cancer treatments and cures. LLS’s TAP partnership with Kite Pharma aims to develop a personalized cell therapy approach to treat patients with lymphoma. The method, known as chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR-T) therapy, harnesses the power of a patient’s immune system by genetically engineering their own immune T-cells to recognize and attack cancer cells. The partnership with OncoPep is focused on development of an investigational vaccine for patients with smoldering multiple myeloma.

“Through our commitment to basic and translational research and the new generation of scientists, and our role as a catalyst for collaboration among biotechnology, government and clinical institutions, LLS is doing more than any cancer nonprofit to advance cutting-edge research and cures,” said Louis J. DeGennaro, PhD, LLS president and chief executive officer. “LLS is funding research from the bench to the bedside in our quest to end blood cancers. There are approximately 240 blood cancer drugs in the development pipeline right now and LLS has played a role in nearly all of these at some point in their development.”

These research investments address critical unmet medical needs for blood cancer patients. From significant support of young scientists through its Career Development Program (CDP), designed to support promising investigators in their developing careers, to a project portfolio covering every type of blood cancer and treatment approach, LLS is the world leader in supporting blood cancer research, access to treatments and patient education.

LLS Academic Grants

This past spring, LLS awarded 25 grants for a total commitment of more than $7 million through its Career Development Program (CDP). One recipient is Christopher Vakoc, MD, PhD, at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, N.Y. Vakoc works in an area of science called epigenetics – chemical changes that switch genes on and off to control cell behavior. His CDP is helping to understand a protein, TRIM33, implicated in certain B-cell cancers with the goal of developing a drug that can inhibit this protein and prevent the proliferation of cancer cells.

“I am so honored to receive this support from LLS as it will allow my lab additional capabilities to pursue our goal of identifying more epigenetic targets for therapy for patients with acute myeloid leukemia and other B-cell cancers,” Vakoc said.

Throughout this summer and fall, LLS awarded additional grants to academic researchers through a variety of grant programs, including its Translational Research Program (TRP), designed to bring promising projects from the laboratory into clinical development. LLS renewed three existing TRPs, and awarded 21 new grants for a total of $14.4 million.

LLS awarded a $5 million Specialized Center of Research (SCOR) grant, its most ambitious funding program, to support a 5-year multi-institution, multi-disciplinary project led by David Weinstock, MD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School. He and colleagues from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Weill Cornell Medical Center and Brigham and Women’s Hospital will closely collaborate on projects focused on developing therapies for T-cell lymphoma.

“I received a Career Development Program grant from LLS as a scholar in 2002, and it played a significant role in my study of cancer genetics and DNA repair,” Weinstock said. “Now I have been given the honor of leading a major LLS SCOR that will enable my colleagues and me to test different targeted approaches to treating patients with T-cell lymphomas, for which there are currently very few good options. LLS funding gives researchers the opportunity to expand their research into innovative areas for which there might otherwise be limited financial resources.”

Finally, through a partnership with MPN Research Foundation, LLS is committing $400,000 to help support several two-year MPN Challenge grants to solve challenges of myeloproliferative neoplasms. And through collaboration with Janssen Pharmaceuticals, LLS’s Transforming CURES Initiative (TCI) will award four three-year projects at $400,000 each for a total of $1.6 million. The TCI grants are designed to support researchers studying how to prevent progression of pre-leukemic diseases to more advanced myeloid blood cancers.

“LLS evaluates hundreds of worthy grant applications each year through a rigorous process, and ultimately selects those projects deemed to have the highest probability of bringing near-term benefit and improving outcomes for patients diagnosed with blood cancers,” said Steven T. Rosen, MD, provost and chief scientific officer of City of Hope, and chairman of LLS’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Board. “This latest round of grants awardees is conducting cutting-edge research to help us better understand the underlying causes of blood cancers so that they can advance better, more targeted therapies and ensure better outcomes for blood cancer patients.”

To learn more visit www.lls.org/research

External Resources

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