Scientists to combine NK cell therapy with immunocytokine to target childhood cancer

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Solving Kids' Cancer and The Catherine Elizabeth Blair Memorial Foundation award grant to researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Researchers have made rapid advances in understanding how to manipulate the immune system safely to destroy cancer cells. Adoptive transfer of haploidentical natural killer (NK) cells has shown promise as a treatment option to target and kill cancer cells in a less toxic way than conventional therapies. Now for the first time, scientists will combine NK cell therapy with an immunocytokine to target children with relapsed/refractory disease including those with bulky tumors.

Solving Kids' Cancer and The Catherine Elizabeth Blair Memorial Foundation awarded a $136,000 grant to support the novel immunotherapy clinical trial for childhood cancer. Both charities supported this trial because researchers will use a humanized monoclonal antibody linked to IL2, known as hu14.18-IL2, which specifically targets neuroblastoma tumor cells and binds to them. The humanized monoclonal antibody may be more effective at activating the NK cells for killing the cancer cells. Using a novel technique, scientists at the University of Wisconsin will collect, expand, and infuse donor NK cells into children with neuroblastoma.

"Previous research has already shown that adoptive transfer of haploidentical NK cells can be effective in reducing disease without the side effects of graft-versus-host disease," said Solving Kids' Cancer Executive Director Scott Kennedy. "We are very excited to support a trial addressing the need for treating children with bulky tumors because they currently have very limited options."

The phase I clinical trial will start enrolling children early next year. The trial will be led by Kenneth DeSantes, M.D., Clinical Director and Paul Sondel, M.D., Ph.D, the Division Head of Pediatric Hematology, Oncology and Bone Marrow Transplant at The University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Carbone Cancer Center. "We believe this therapy may provide some hope for children with relapsed or refractory neuroblastoma, whose prognosis has historically been extremely poor. The NK cells utilized in this trial have an enhanced ability to kill tumor targets. We anticipate that the administration of these activated NK cells, given in combination with an immunocytokine that specifically recognizes neuroblastoma, will result in significant anti-cancer activity," said Dr. DeSantes.

"We are excited to be involved in this ground-breaking research," added Ellen Blair, the co-founder of The Catherine Elizabeth Blair Memorial Foundation. "Our partnership with SKC enables us to further our mission to support the development of new treatments for neuroblastoma, until neuroblastoma can no longer threaten children's lives."


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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