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Life Sciences Discovery Fund Grants $1 Million to Seattle Children’s Research Institute for Wash. Cancer Immunotherapy Initiative

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Michael Jensen, MD, of Seattle Children’s Research Institute will partner with investigators from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center on the Washington State Cancer Immunotherapy Initiative.

September 19, 2013

Ben Towne Foundation pledges additional $1 million to support project

Michael Jensen, MD, director of Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, got the news late last week: The Life Sciences Discovery Fund (LSDF) announced a $1 million award for the Washington State Cancer Immunotherapy Initiative.

The award will fund vital studies of a cancer immunotherapy regimen that is in clinical trials in children and adults, in support of Jensen’s vision to develop a leading immunotherapy program in Seattle. Seattle Children’s Research Institute is committed to matching the LSDF dollars through grants and philanthropic donations. Ben Towne Foundation has pledged $1 million to support this initiative.

“Our vision with this project is to create an immunotherapy hub in Seattle,” said Jensen. “We’re using immunotherapy now to treat relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukemia, and we have plans in the works at Seattle Children’s to launch a clinical trial next year to target neuroblastoma.” 

Last July, Seattle Children’s announced that the first patient in a cellular immunotherapy Phase 1 cancer trial had a positive response to T-cell therapy. The new treatment involves drawing blood from the patient, reprogramming infection-fighting T-cells to find and destroy cancer cells, and infusing the blood back into the patient’s body. The 23-year-old patient signed up for the study after experiencing a second relapse of leukemia earlier in 2013.

Elsewhere in Seattle, researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have used immunotherapy to boost survival rates for patients with leukemia and other blood cancers. And they’ve also found it has promise for treating aggressive skin and kidney cancers. Stanley Riddell, MD, a member of the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutch, is partnering with Jensen and their collective teams to create this immunotherapy hub. 

“We’re in a unique position here in Seattle to advance immunotherapy, and expand these treatments to other cancers,” said Jensen, who envisions that one day, clinicians will use T-cell therapy to treat lung, breast and colon cancer in adults.

The Ben Towne Center for Childhood Cancer Research Therapeutic Cell Production Core will facilitate the acceleration of the T-cell therapy approach from the lab to the clinic. This facility, a GMP (good manufacturing practices) biofactory where patients’ T-cell are reprogrammed to fight cancer, is one of only three facilities of its kind on the West Coast dedicated to pediatric research.

“This grant, to one of our state’s top research institutions, will help Washington maintain its leadership position in cancer research and treatment and will help capitalize upon the outputs of some of our most innovative and productive investigators,” said LSDF board chair Carol Dahl.

Funding for the new awards comes from Washington’s allocation of payments under the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement of 1998, revenues arising from multi-state litigation with tobacco product manufacturers.

About Seattle Children’s Research Institute

Located in downtown Seattle’s biotech corridor, Seattle Children’s Research Institute is pushing the boundaries of medical research to find cures for pediatric diseases and improve outcomes for children all over the world. Internationally recognized investigators and staff at the research institute are advancing new discoveries in cancer, genetics, immunology, pathology, infectious disease, injury prevention and bioethics, among others. As part of Seattle Children’s Hospital, the research institute brings together leading minds in pediatric research to provide patients with the best care possible. Seattle Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine, which consistently ranks as one of the best pediatric departments in the country. For more information, visit http://www.seattlechildrens.org/research.

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