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CU Joining National Immunotherapy Trial Targeting Cancer

Promising approach unleashes modified T-cells to battle acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

8/16/2016
A clinical trial set to launch at the University of Colorado Cancer Center will test a therapy designed to fire the body’s natural defenses against a deadly blood cancer. The target is acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer that strikes the lymphocytes, which are immature white blood cells in the bone marrow. It most often is treated with chemotherapy, drugs that target specific genetic mutations, and stem cell bone marrow transplants. Children have the greatest chance of surviving the disease. However, for some ALL patients the available treatments fail.

The Cancer Center will recruit patients from anywhere in the country for a trial sponsored by Seattle-based Juno Therapeutics. It targets adult ALL patients whose cells express a protein called CD19 that is very commonly present in B-cell lymphomas, including ALL, said principal investigator Enkhee Purev, MD, PhD, assistant professor with the Division of Hematology in the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Department of Medicine. The CAR T-cell treatment probably represents the last hope for adult patients who have exhausted the standard treatment options, she said.

“These are patients who have gone through many treatments, including chemo and transplants,” Purev said. She said without therapy they would typically have only two or three months left to live.