University of Florida Health’s Duane Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., will receive a $1 million grant Thursday from the nonprofit Hyundai Hope On Wheels to further his research into stimulating immune responses against malignant brain tumor cells.
In a ceremony at the New York International Auto Show, Mitchell will receive one of four new Quantum Grants, to be given to institutions committed to transformational research on pediatric cancers with the lowest survival rates.
“Despite aggressive treatment, up to a third of children diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor will ultimately lose the battle against their disease,” said Mitchell, the Phyllis Kottler Friedman Professor in the department of neurosurgery. “We anticipate that immune therapies, such as adoptive T cell therapy, will lead to more effective treatments for those who do not benefit from standard treatment.”
Adoptive T cell therapy involves removing certain immune cells from a patient to reprogram the cells to specifically target brain tumor cells, then reintroducing the reprogrammed immune cells into the body.
Mitchell, who directs the UF Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program, has served as principal investigator of nine first-in-human, FDA-approved clinical trials aimed at improving patient outcomes by using new ways to prompt immune responses to target malignant brain tumor cells.
His research team at the Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy at the University of Florida is now working to build upon its early successes in this personalized treatment approach.
“The Hyundai Hope on Wheels Quantum Award will be instrumental in advancing our next generation of targeted immunotherapies for pediatric brain tumors,” Mitchell said. “The grant will support efforts to identify new targets for adoptive T cell therapy in medulloblastoma, the most common pediatric malignant brain tumor.”
This work will lay an important foundation of preclinical studies required to evaluate the approach in children with resistant brain tumors.
“We anticipate these studies, if successful, will lead to our next phase of clinical immunotherapy trials,” Mitchell said.
In addition to Mitchell, other 2016 Quantum Grant recipients include Loren D. Walensky, M.D., Ph.D., of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston; Richard Aplenc, M.D., Ph.D., MSCE, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and Soheil Meshinchi, M.D., Ph.D., and Marie Bleakley, M.D., Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.