OV Therapy – The Next Frontier is Closer Than You Think

This fourth in our blog series on the progress of cell and gene therapy for cancer focuses on a treatment that has made huge strides in recent years: Viral Therapy.

What is Viral Therapy?

Using viruses to target disease is a science first contemplated over a hundred years ago, but was not possible until the technology advances we have now virus_fightscancerthat enable genetic engineering. Oncolytic Viral Therapy [OV] made news last year at Duke University when a trial using a modified polio virus effectively destroyed Glioblastoma, a deadly brain cancer. Half the patients, in advanced stages, found themselves in remission. In other studies, a measles virus destroyed severe blood cancer and the maraba virus, related to rabies, reduced the size and spread of melanoma, lung and colon cancers, as well as select brain tumors.

How can a virus fight cancer?

You may be thinking: why would I purposely insert a virus into my body? Viruses are harmless once they are decoded, and there are over 3,500 known viruses with the potential to be therapeutic agents. In laboratory research, viruses proved their ability to spread curative agents rapidly in cancer cells and, at the same time, signal the immune system of a threat, so the body responds with its own army of killer T-cells.

ACGT and OV

Dr. John Bell, ACGT Scientific Advisory Council member, and Research Fellow,  reported in April at the ACGT Scientific Symposium that viral therapy is a powerful 1-2 punch. “The virus attacks the tumor and the immune system comes in to finish the job.”

According to ACGT experts in the field, oncolytic viruses have an exemplary safety record. One of the greater success stories was a 49-year old patient at the end of a 10-year battle with myeloma who has been in remission for 2.5 years after the direct injection of a modified measles virus.

Dr. Bell and his colleagues at the forefront of OV describe viruses as “exquisitely selective” in targeting cancer cells and they are easily engineered to carry corrective genes to destroy or repair damaged genes.

Challenges and Potential

The great challenge ahead is to match the right virus to the cancer, as well as learn how to mass manufacture viral agents to treat large numbers of patients. Perhaps the greatest obstacle researchers face is that many tumors contain sensors that trigger an anti-viral response, to defend against the therapeutic influence of the virus. As we’ve reported before, cancer cells are tenacious in protecting themselves frocancer_revolutionarytreatmentm interference from all types of treatment, including cell and gene therapies; however scientists are closing in on ways to destroy the cancer line of defense.

This science is moving rapidly. Researchers throughout the world are examining the intricate differences between types of cancers to ensure a virus’ ability to penetrate and replicate. At the same time, biotech and pharmaceutical firms are looking closely at the potential for this revolutionary treatment. Novartis, one of the largest drug companies in the world, is backing a therapy using an HIV virus with the hope of FDA approval within the year, and trials using Amgen’s Imlygic, an OV treatment for metastatic melanoma, used in combination with the chemotherapy drug Yervoy, improved life span. Stay tuned!

“There’s no question this field has altered the trajectory of cancer research – we’re moving towards a biologic approach and away from drug and radiation treatment.”    Dr. John Bell, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

 

CRISPR the Next Frontier in Gene Therapy Cancer Research

In our last blog, we described the progress and promise of CAR-T, an immunotherapy that has been particularly successful with leukemia and lymphoma. As a companion to CAR-T, and all forms of cell and gene therapies, CRISPR is the talk of the scientific town these days and is the next tcell_ssfrontier in genetic medicine.

CRISPR. Sounds like something that belongs in your kitchen, doesn’t it? This science is neither therapy nor treatment. It’s a fantastically precise tool that permits genetic editing. Once we completed mapping the human genome, we have the knowledge, and the technology, to effect change in the base DNA that makes up our unique identity. A small change in that code can make a huge difference in health and longevity.

What is CRISPR technology?

Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repetition is the actual term, should you have an opportunity to prove your medical mettle in conversation. A simpler translation: molecular medical scissors used to repair or replace a portion of the genetic code. #genomics

The technology was discovered just three years ago when researchers, using a DNA cut and paste method using bacteria to protect against viruses, realized they could also edit human genes. In CRISPR, either the cancerous cell, once cut, will repair itself, or the body’s natural killer T-cells will take aim and destroy diseased cells. Unbelievably simple once the barriers caused by mutated or damaged genes are removed.DNA_scissors

Sounds like Sci-Fi? Well, it is a huge leap into the future. So new that scientists from around the world gathered earlier this year for the first international summit on human gene editing, in Washington DC, and agreed to avoid using the science for human genetic engineering. No test tube animals, no Frankenstein. On the other hand, CRISPR is being used to simulate cancers in laboratory animals, for the purpose of study, and much will be learned in this way.

CAR-T, Immunotherapy and CRISPR

CRISPR has the potential to battle not only disease, but also genetic disorders like allergies or neurological dysfunction. The opportunities are limitless. Our own Scientific Advisory Council member, Dr. Carl June, at the University of Pennsylvania, is heading a research team funded by Facebook financier Sean Parker. Dr. June aims to enhance his pioneering immunotherapy by making even more powerful killer T-cells using the CRISPR scissors. Cells will be edited to bypass cancer’s natural protective obstacles to treatment, known as checkpoint inhibitors. [See our blog on CAR-T.]

“This is the first example of CRISPR in clinical trials in humans, period,” Parker reported at the Forbes Philanthropy Summit in August. This sort of advancement may not have been possible without private funding.

 

gene_editing_ssThe race is on to refine the technique. In China, scientists are studying the potential for CRISPR for lung cancer and have secured approvals for first level trials. In the US, the FDA is expected to approve Phase I trials later this year, with patients suffering melanoma, sarcoma and myeloid cancers. The trials will examine toxicity and side effects as well as patient response.

Treating Cancer Patients

Are there challenges? Of course. Medical interventions, even perfected in the lab, must be refined in practice. Humans have been blessed with powerful immune systems that have been too often neutralized when confronted with cancers, but both CAR-T and CRISPR seek to change all that.

The future is happening right now, and ACGT is still the only non-profit in the nation dedicated exclusively to innovative cell and gene therapies for cancer. Stay tuned!

We post short blogs just twice a month with the latest news and information on cell and gene therapies. Sign up here and stay in the know

Philanthropists Make Miracles Happen

You might be surprised to learn that only one percent of grant funding from the National Institutes of Health [NIH] is awarded to young researchers. In contrast, ACGT uses half of its funding for clinical trials and half of its funding goes to young scientists exploring revolutionary approaches to cancer treatment.

We are second to none in our admiration for the NIH, the world’s largest source of funding for medical research; however our ACGT Research Fellows concur with the general consensus that the red tape can be crippling and good research goes begging for support.

grant_fundingTo make matters worse, public funding is a classic chicken and egg model: researchers have to prove their hypotheses before they are considered for NIH grants, but where will they find the financing to compile that data? Universities will fund a study for just so long before they too need an infusion of capital.

As a result, great minds are increasingly hesitant to commit to research and the brain drain will ultimately cost lives. Too many young scientists also face the denial of tenure if they cannot publish. Yet discovery laboratory research, which ACGT has emphasized from day one, lays the groundwork for most medical breakthroughs and the foundation for clinical trials.

A recent article in Philanthropy Magazine by Karl Zinsmeister, founder of the Almanac of American Philanthropy, endorsed the importance of private giving to ensure new forms of medicine. We couldn’t agree more. Discovery research has led to more innovative and effective treatments for cancer, and the need for funding is greater every day.

WINTER17-cover-166x215-v2Zinsmeister also pointed out that donor-funded scientists produce high-impact papers at a much greater rate than similarly accomplished NIH-funded researchers, as reported by the National Bureau of Economic Research, because “philanthropy tolerates early failure, rewards long-term success and gives its appointees great freedom to experiment.”

Philanthropists have funded the most important medical breakthroughs of the 20th century, for example:

  • Immigrant physician George Papanicolaou, in 1928, sponsored the development of the lifesaving test for cervical cancer, despite the disdain by the medical establishment.
  • The John Hartford Foundation, created from the A&P supermarket fortune, was the leading funder of biomedical research from the 1950s to the 1970s
  • And let us not forget the foundation of the Sloan Kettering Institute in 1956 by inventor Charles Kettering.

The trend continues in this millennium.

  • Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen created a new lab with an initial $100 million gift to better understand how living cells relate to each other.
    Allen’s compatriot, Bill Gates, has given millions to combat worldwide disease.
  • Internet entrepreneur Sean Parker donated $250 million from his Facebook proceeds to back cancer immunology. Parker demanded collaboration between six top cancer centers to improve the odds of success. ACGT’s funded scientists lead a third of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy centers.
  • Costco’s Sol Price funded research at Caltech to sequence DNA, which made the mapping of the human genome, and precision medicine, possible.
    Michael Milken founded the Prostate Cancer Foundation to support risk-taking research to achieve results sooner than later, and that success inspired FasterCures, to accelerate progress through greater efficiency.

Ratings for charitable organizations make it possible to ensure greater odds for a good return on investment. Each donation to Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy goes directly to research because a separate fund supports administrative expenses. In contrast, university labs are burdened by overhead and onerous paperwork. Our prestigious Scientific Advisory Council makes certain that grants are awarded to the most promising researchers in North America, with few strings attached other than the dedication to results and proper reporting on progress. It is the generosity of ACGT donors that allow us all to truly fund miracles.

Giving, in the right way, makes miracles happen. Read more at Philanthropy Roundtable.

Immunotherapy and Cell Therapy Research For Cancer Makes Headlines

In the third of a front page series in the The New York Times published July 31st – August 2nd, entitled “Setting the Body’s ‘Serial Killers’ Loose on Cancer,” science writer Andrew Pollack reported on Dr. Steven Rosenberg at the National Cancer Institute, a research physician who has committed half a century to the promise of immunotherapy. The article also highlighted the CAR-T immunotherapy treatment pioneered by Scientific Advisory Council members Dr. Carl June at the University of Pennsylvania and Dr. Michel Sadelain at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and referenced ACGT co-founders Edward and Barbara Netter.

ACGT Researchers Michel Sadelain and Carl June

Drs. Michel Sadelain and Carl June

ACGT has funded the research into CAR-T therapy from inception and we have seen incredible progress in refining this science as a whole new way of treating cancer, and the vast majority of patients enrolled in trials are experiencing long-lasting remissions.

What exactly is CAR-T cell therapy and how does it work?

Following is a simple summary of a complex process, and the Times printed a very useful diagram in Part I.

T-cells are a type of white blood cell whose sole function is to identify and destroy cells that threaten the body’s health. They are also known as killer cells, an apt description. Each T-cell has claw-like receptors that can lock onto antigens – protein fragments on the surface of abnormal cells. In a very simple blood draw, a patient’s own cells are extracted and then modified to target cancer cells before reinserting into the patient to awaken the immune system. The great beauty of this science is that those T-cells now know exactly where to attack. They go after the cancer – and only the cancer – so side effects are generally few, and mild, nothing like the toxic effects of chemotherapy drugs. And the treatment is usually one or two days, not weeks or months.

CAR T-cells Of course there is a snag in the approach – nothing in medical science happens overnight. Cancer cells have what are called Checkpoint Inhibitors that defend against any interference, even from the immune system. So T-cells have to bypass those inhibitors and that’s the more delicate part of the process. When this doesn’t work, side effects can be severe – in fact, the immune system can turn on itself, known as an autoimmune response, which can be severe, and the treatment may not work. The future of CAR-T relies on shutting down checkpoints and there is a lot of optimism that this will be accomplished sooner than later.

CAR-T has been proven extremely effective with leukemia and lymphomas and other blood cancers, and some pediatric types as well. Further study and human trials are necessary to improve the effectiveness of the treatment on solid cancers, and ACGT scientists are working to make this happen.

Promise of Cell and Gene Therapies for Cancer

The real future, and the great promise of cell therapies like CAR-T, is to match the cancer profile to the treatment design and tremendous progress is being made toward this end. In this way, the checkpoints on each cancer in each individual patient will be more easily identified, and neutralized, and the treatment will be more reliably effective.

Immunotherapy is the future and is happening right now and ACGT is still the only non-profit in the nation dedicated exclusively to cell and gene therapies for cancer. Stay tuned!

 

Witness to Cancer Research Progress

Cancer Moonshot 2020We recently participated in a webinar sponsored by FasterCures featuring highlights of the Cancer Moonshot Summit in Washington, D.C. You may recall the Moonshot is the initiative announced at President Obama’s State of the Union Address in January, and led by Vice-President Biden, to accelerate cancer research in order to improve the ability to prevent and detect cancers, and to build a super highway to more effective treatments by 2020. An unprecedented alliance of medical investigators and pharmaceutical companies has come together to get the job done.

Yes, we’ve heard talk about a war on #Cancer before. However this time, the weight of the White House is behind it, and the program is facilitated by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health. So many strides have been made in research in recent years that we hope to see vastly more effective medicines coming sooner to the cancer patients who need it.

An important component of the program is to do a better job matching patients with clinical trials that might save their lives even before final therapeutic approvals, and to do that a government site will serve as the conduit: https://cancerclinicaltrialsideas.cancer.gov/. This is a very important first step.

Greg Simon, Executive Director of the CancerMoonshotTaskForce, reported that the top challenge is to dig deeper into understanding the nature of various cancers and encourage development of new forms of treatment. It is important to encourage greater access to new research data and to break through regulatory barriers, which have been a concern of ACGT scientists all along. He also talked about ensuring optimal investment of federal resources, of course, as well as seeking opportunities for public-private partnerships.

Cancer Moonshot is in Alignment with ACGT’s Mission

Interestingly, these goals line-up with the goals of Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy and have been our calling card for the 15 years since inception.

Ellen Sigal, founder and chair of Friends of Cancer Research, spoke about the formation of a blue ribbon working panel consisting of 12 groups, each developing recommendations to meet the goals of the Moonshot by the end of this summer. She talked about the importance of cross-fertilization of learning through a national network of clinical and technological data, and we agree, this is terribly important. Too much science happens in isolation and the more we share learning, the greater the results.

ACGT Cancer Research Symposium 2016

She too emphasized the value of public-private partnerships, which was a theme at the ACGT Scientific Symposium in April, where many of our Research Fellows and members of our Scientific Advisory Council are already establishing productive collaborations between the biotechnology industry and the medical research community.

Beyond the general reporting on what needs to be done, which is pretty clear, and what sort of workgroups will get the job done, I also appreciated an increased emphasis on discovery science, where young investigators break new ground – that’s where revolutionary treatments begin and where ACGT has focused more than half our grant funding over the years. Many of those early lab projects are now in clinical trials and/or serve as the basis for new medicines.

While everyone at the Summit is excited for the attention and funding behind the Moonshot, there was serious concern about what might happen after the November election, not only with a new president, but a Congress that has been reluctant to fund such initiatives in spending battles. It would be a shame to halt this initiative as it builds momentum.

Some of the best brains in the country are working together to shake up the system and put revolutionary medical science on a faster track to patients, and ACGT scientists are at the forefront of these efforts, every single day. Stay tuned and learn more. fastercures.tumblr.com

Wendy Walk and ACGT Join Forces

Sunday, May 1, 2016, ACGT colleagues attended the Wendy Walk Fundraiser in New York City. This uplifting event is another example of the difference a few people and a good idea can make. Wendy Walk was founded in 2010 by ACGT Board Member Ali Landes and siblings Matt and Jackie to raise funds and awareness for sarcomas, rare forms of cancer that sadly caused the death of their mother Wendy. The largest events are walks held in several major cities including Miami, New York and Los Angeles. This week, hundreds gathered (despite the rain) to celebrate the lives of survivors, many of whom once received terrible prognoses but have gone on to defeat the odds. Some are still with us 7 – 10 years later. There were also those represented who have not been as fortunate, including one woman whose husband just passed away 7 months ago, leaving her and their young son. But, as Matt Landes remarked, when they first started the organization 6 years ago, the idea of treating sarcoma was in its infancy. Today, ACGT and Wendy Walk are jointly funding Dr. Crystal Mackall’s research at Stanford into new therapy for osteosarcoma, leading to a clinical trial in the next year to two. Further evidence of the importance of private funding for research and how it truly makes a difference. Learn more about Wendy Walk and Dr. Mackall’s grant.

Celebrate Breakthrough Cancer Research

As we celebrate this wonderful season of giving, we want to thank all of our donors for helping support ACGT’s breakthrough research.  And we want to thank our researchers and their patients who are continually moving cell and gene therapies for cancer to the forefront of innovation in the treatment of this deadly disease.  2015 has been a wonderful year full of outstanding cell and gene therapy progress, and there is much to celebrate.  We continue to see more successful results with the use of T-cell therapy for the treatment of leukemia in both adult and pediatric patients.  Many of our researchers continue to achieve life-saving results including Dr. Carl June, Dr. Michel Sadelain, Dr. Laurence Cooper, Dr. Thomas Kipps to name a few. 

2015 has also been the year of oncolytic viruses (OV), as the FDA recently approved the first OV therapy for the treatment of blood cancer.  Many of ACGT’s scientists, including current ACGT grantee Dr. John Bell, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute have pioneered this gene therapy.  We have also witnessed the emergence of gene editing, and in London, it was successfully used on donor T-cells to treat a little girl in London who was dying of leukemia and is now cancer-free.   And just this month, suicide gene therapy was use to successfully kill prostate tumor cells.

All of these powerful therapies are being researched by ACGT Research Fellows and members of our esteemed Scientific Advisory Council.  But there is still much to do.  These therapies are still in their infancy and  need more support to get them into more patients, while keeping the costs of production down.  And we need more support for ACGT’s Young Investigator program which supports newly minted Assistant Professors conducting novel independent basic science using cell and gene therapies.

Again, thank you to all and best wishes for a happy, healthy 2016. 

 

 

Patient in China Free of Leukemia After CAR T cell Therapy,

In China, a patient whose life was close to its end was completely cured of leukemia by stimulating the immune system using CAR T-cell therapy. In the first study of its type, all cancer cells quickly disappeared. Immune-mediated treatment, pioneered in this country by ACGT scientists Dr. Carl June, University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Michel Sadelain, Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, among others, is rapidly proving more and more successful with thousands of patients in human trials.

A middle-aged woman is said to have been cured of leukemia after she was treated with CAR T-cell therapy. “The cancer cells have disappeared from her body. She is the first patient who has been completely cured of the disease using gene therapy,” said Professor Qian Cheng, director of the Bio-Treatment Center at the hospital in the city of Chongqing.

China has about four million patients that have been diagnosed with leukemia. Most patients are treated using chemo-therapy or bone marrow transplants, but CAR-T treatment is a gene therapy using modified T cells to fight cancer cells in leukemia patients. “CAR-T therapy is a much better option, because it can cut costs by at least 30 percent compared with bone marrow transplants, and is more likely to lead to a cure,” Professor Qian said

Six other patients, who are receiving the gene therapy in the same hospital, have shown improved conditions, according to Professor Qian. CAR-T gene therapy is still in the clinical trial phase in China and has only been administered in fewer than ten hospitals across China. Qian said his team is encouraged by the success and will further study dosing to improve the new therapy. .

An Amazing, Unprecedented Documentary on Cancer

At Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT), we strive to revolutionize how we treat and understand cancer. The scientists we fund, and the donors who share their resources, envision a world where a cancer diagnosis doesn’t signal hopelessness. They imagine a world where cancer is a manageable disease — one that doesn’t require surgery, radiation or the harrowing side effects that come with a course of chemotherapy.

We also know ACGT is part of a larger narrative: The war on cancer. It’s a war that has touched countless lives, and involves so many brave patients and dedicated researchers. Cell and gene therapies — the revolutionary treatments that harness the human immune system to effectively battle cancer cells — are showing more promise than ever. And that promise will be featured in an upcoming television event.

This week, PBS is debuting an unprecedented documentary: a six-hour, three-part program produced by legendary filmmaker Ken Burns that traces the history of cancer and explores what lies ahead. Titled “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies,” the program is based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name, penned by Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee. Dr. Mukherjee is an author and physician who has dedicated himself to battling cancer – he both treats patients and works diligently to uncover new and innovative ways to conquer cancer.

“Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies” is an ambitious project — it’s “the most comprehensive documentary on a single disease ever made,” according to PBS. The program will explore cancer’s appearance and impact thousands of years ago; it will spotlight the efforts in the 20th century to understand, control and cure cancer; and it will detail the cell and gene therapy work being done today that holds tremendous promise and hope.

ACGT invites and encourages our supporters to tune in. The documentary dovetails with our mission, our motivations and our accomplishments. And it culminates on an optimistic note: “The series also features the current status of cancer knowledge and treatment — the dawn of an era in which cancer may become a chronic or curable illness rather than its historic death sentence in some forms,” PBS explains.

We’re also tremendously proud that “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies” includes a few faces familiar to the ACGT community: Dr. Carl June, an ACGT grantee, immunotherapy pioneer, and member of our Scientific Advisory Council, and Emily Whitehead, the amazing young girl who — with the help of Dr. June — was able to fully recover from near fatal leukemia. Both Dr. June and Emily Whitehead make appearances in the film, and share their stories.

Their stories are inextricably linked to ACGT. Dr. Carl June — who has carried out watershed breakthroughs during his time at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine — received an ACGT grant a few years ago to battle blood cancers. It was through this work that Dr. June was able to save Emily’s life — and make history. For those interested in learning more, read The New York Times story.

This won’t be the duo’s first time on the small screen: In February, Dr. June and Emily Whitehead were featured in the VICE/HBO documentary “Killing Cancer,” which focused on our ability to now weaponize the human immune system against cancer. Other ACGT personalities were featured prominently, as well: 2013 grantee Dr. John Bell and Scientific Advisory Council member Dr. Stephen Russell.

Dr. June and Emily Whitehead’s inclusion in “Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies”— along with their appearances in “Killing Cancer” — are a testament to ACGT and so much of what we stand for: conquering cancer, optimism and the power of private philanthropy.

For those who share our mission and passion, please tune into the PBS documentary this week. The program will be showing Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; broadcast details can be found here.

Immunotherapy Receives a $100 Million Boost

The University of Texas’ MD Anderson Cancer Center — one of the most esteemed cancer laboratories and centers in the world — is in the vanguard of advancing and unlocking the amazing abilities of immunotherapy. And recently, MD Anderson Cancer Center’s work earned major plaudits and support: The hospital was awarded $100 million for its groundbreaking research.

At the center of the landmark science that garnered the financial support is Dr. Laurence Cooper, PhD, a Professor of Pediatrics and a Section Chief at MD Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Cooper has been a ballast in the 21st century’s fight against cancer: A marquee name in the oncology world and an Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT) Young Investigator, his work has propelled the immunotherapy forward immensely and awarded hope and treatment to those who need it most. Working alongside Dr. Cooper is the esteemed Perry Hackett, PhD, a professor at the College of Biological Sciences at Minnesota. Dr. Cooper and Hackett explore the realm of immunotherapy that pits patients’ CAR T cells against invasive cancer cells. MD Anderson Cancer Center has published the scientific details of the project and partnership in their newsroom. It’s here that the center’s president, Dr. Ron DePinho, lauds immunotherapy as “one of the most exciting approaches with curative potential in oncology today.”

The generous support stems from synthetic biology company Intrexon Corporation and its oncology partner, ZIOPHARM Oncology, in the shape of a licensing agreement. The backing of these two companies augurs a new era for immunotherapy. As brilliant minds like Dr. Cooper and his colleagues further harness the power of immunotherapy, biotech companies are able to connect with laboratories and work to bring the discoveries to patients who need it dearly. Immunotherapy is a beacon in the war on cancer: It promises an effective treatment that can battle cancer cells without the harrowing side effects of chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. And that dovetails completely with ACGT’s mission: Discovering new ways to treat and defeat cancer, while also preserving patients’ quality of life and minimizing painful side effects. 

Dr. Cooper’s pedigree with ACGT dates back over one decade. In 2003, as an Assistant Professor of Hematology and Oncology at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, Dr. Cooper received a Young Investigator Grant. These ACGT grants support bright oncologists with novel ideas who display admirable promise and dedication. In 2006, Dr. Cooper transitioned to his role at MD Anderson Cancer Center. And ever since connecting with ACGT, Dr. Cooper has regularly assisted our foundation in evangelizing donors by spotlighting the amazing potential of immunotherapy. 

“The war on cancer has evolved… over these years,” Dr. Cooper said at a recent ACGT event in New York City, speaking to the growth and major successes of immunotherapy. The future of fighting cancer is immune-based therapy and gene therapy, he added. Indeed, the science has grown by leaps and bounds in just a few short decades, offering a renewed hope — and saving lives — to cancer patients who believed they had exhausted other treatment options. 

Dr. Cooper also understands the integral and indispensable role that philanthropy plays in the fight against cancer, particularly in the arena of immunotherapy. “It doesn’t fit the typical funding model,” he said at that same event, speaking to a room of donors, scientists and cancer survivors. “Philanthropy, thank goodness, has really stepped in and recognized the power.”

As philanthropists — and now biotech companies like Intrexon Corporation ZIOPHARM Oncology, too — continue to support immunotherapy, we can watch a new era of better, more effective cancer treatment unfold. This deep investment in immunotherapy highlights the field’s bright future, and our ability to one day transform the perils of cancer into a relic.