Scientists at Children's Hospital Los Angeles Awarded Prestigious V Foundation Grant providing $600,000 Funding for Translational Cancer Research

Fatih Uckun, M.D., Ph.D.

Scientists at the Children's Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases (CCCBD) and the Keck School of Medicine have been awarded a highly competitive translational research grant of $600,000 from The V Foundation for Cancer Research.  This grant will provide funding for further development of a novel bioengineered derivative of CD19-L, a recombinant human biotherapeutic agent targeting CD19-positive leukemic stem cells.

B-lineage acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) is the most common cancer occurring in children and adolescents.  Despite having received intensive chemotherapy, some patients have recurring disease.  For these individuals, the prospect of long-term survival is poor.  The goal of this project is to further develop and test an anti-leukemic therapy capable of killing these chemotherapy-resistant leukemia cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.

The proposed research will help establish "personalized salvage regimens" against chemotherapy-resistant leukemia. The protein will be used to amplify the potency of standard chemotherapy against leukemia. The researchers believe that the addition of this protein to chemotherapy will prove highly effective against drug-resistant leukemia cells.  They are hopeful that this research will open a new range of effective treatment opportunities for children with recurrent leukemia. The successful completion of this research project may provide the foundation for a more effective and potentially paradigm-shifting therapeutic innovation against chemotherapy-resistant leukemia.

The research team includes Fatih Uckun, M.D., Ph.D., head of Translational Research in Leukemia and Lymphoma at CCCBD and professor of Pediatrics at the Keck School, who will serve as principal investigator.  His co-Investigators include: Paul Gaynon, M.D., professor of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine, and director of Clinical Oncology research in CCCBD and Amanda Termuhlen, M.D., professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine and medical director of the Jonathan Jaques Children's Cancer Center at Miller Children's Hospital.   Scientists specializing in genetic engineering and developmental therapeutics, including Drs. Hong Ma and Dorothea Myers, will provide laboratory expertise.

Uckun is one of nine scientists, nationwide, to be awarded a 2011 V Foundation Translational Research Grant. "I am honored to be a recipient of this very special award," said Uckun. "The translational research grant from the V Foundation will enable us to fully develop a therapeutic innovation that can have a significant positive impact on the survival and quality of life of children diagnosed with aggressive leukemias."

The V Foundation is a charitable organization created in 1993 by ESPN and Jim Valvano, the legendary North Carolina State University basketball coach and ESPN broadcaster who died of cancer that year.  The V Foundation's Translational Research Grant Program supports teams of basic and clinical investigators carrying out research that has imminent potential for translation into the clinic.  

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