Pre-Clinical and Clinical Concepts Awardees

Current Awardees

Arabinda Das 

Arabinda Das, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Neurosurgery

david cachia 

David Cachia, M.D.

Associate Professor, Neurosurgery

Project: Overcoming Anti-Angiogenesis Therapy Induced Resistance in Recurrent Glioblastoma

Glioblastoma is a very aggressive brain tumor that to date we have no cure for. Treatments such as radiation and chemotherapy extend life, but unfortunately these tumors become resistant to treatment and grow back. One of the mechanisms by which they become resistant to a particular treatment used in clinic called bevacizumab is through a protein within the cell membrane called galectin 1. In this project we plan to inhibit galectin 1 with the hypothesis that this will make bevacizumab treatment more effective and prolong patient survival.

Previous Awardees

joseph delaney 

Joe Delaney, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology

Project: Combination of Autophagy Selective Therapeutics (COAST) in Serous Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer has routinely escaped attempts by scientists and doctors to treat and prevent long-term remission. One reason is that each and every ovarian cancer cell within a patient has an ability to shift its genes around — thousands at a time. Since genes enable a cancer cell to metastasize and resist drugs, this means ovarian cancer is uniquely able to evolve and evade many forms of chemotherapy. Delaney’s lab has developed drug treatments that work better in this type of cancer cell. They work by disrupting the “autophagy” pathway, a microscopic recycling system that this cancer type is unusually poor at performing and is easily clogged. These drugs are prescribed at a low cost in developing nations yet are able to combat some of the toughest forms of ovarian cancer. They are even prescribed to pregnant patients for other diseases due to their minimal side effects.

However, before using these drug combination treatments in people, researchers must investigate the safest, most efficient way of combining these drugs with a standard of care for ovarian cancer. This study will use mouse models of advanced ovarian cancer to evaluate how to use these drugs to achieve complete remission in the mice without harming essential organs. With these data, the researchers will be better able to move safely into human trials.

Philanthropic donor Matt Prisby funded Delaney’s project in its entirety. Prisby has been a strong supporter and proponent for furthering women’s cancer research at Hollings Cancer Center. Part of the funding came from the Sheryl Sirisky Prisby Endowed Scholarship, the first such scholarship dedicated exclusively to the advancement of Hollings’ work in women’s cancers.

 

nancy demore 

Nancy DeMore, M.D.

Professor, Surgery

Project: Curcumin "Window Trial" of Anti-tumor Effects on Breast Cancer Primary Tumors

Dr. DeMore proposed a prospective "window trial" to assess biologic effects of curcumin, a substance in turmeric, on breast cancer tumors. Some laboratories have reported that turmeric has anticancer properties on cells in culture. Her proposed study will assess for differences in tumor proliferation, apoptosis and angiogenesis of tumors between the core biopsy prior to treatment with curcumin and the resected surgical specimen post-treatment. She will assess these biologic markers of tumor growth using immunohistochemistry on paraffin-embedded tumor samples. This will determine whether turmeric affects breast cancer growth in humans.

 

antonio giordano 

Antonio Giordano, M.D., Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Oncology

Project: Adoptive Transfer of Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes for the Treatment of Breast Cancer

There are few treatment options for patients with breast cancer that has spread outside the breast. The goal of this application is to develop a new treatment for these patients using a person's immune system to attack the cancer cells. Immune cells taken from tumors have shown the ability to kill cancer cells and, when used as a therapy, lead to remissions in patients with otherwise deadly forms of skin cancer. However, there is very limited research evaluating this concept in breast cancer. The objectives are to take a sample of a person's immune cells and make them grow in the lab, study what type of breast cancer is more susceptible to this type of treatment approach, and recruit expert scientists who can help validate the program and write a clinical protocol. The completion of these objectives would provide the opportunity to open and run this clinical trial at MUSC and to apply for more research funding to support the project.

 

shikhar mehrotra 

Shikhar Mehrotra, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Surgery

Project: Programming Metabolically Fit Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes (TILs) for Treating Urologic Cancer by Advanced Cell Technology

Despite recent advances, T cell immunotherapy still remains inaccessible to a vast majority of the patients due to exorbitant costs and other difficult logistics associated with its generation at multiple centers. In addition, the availability of high affinity T cell receptors or novel Chimeric Antigen Receptors has been limited. Thus, TILs still present the best option for treating tumors that cannot be controlled using the conventional approaches. In this application, we propose to program prostate tumor infiltrating T cells with robust anti-tumor and glutaminolysis dependent phenotype that could help these TILs to compete for nutrients in highly glycolytic tumor microenvironment. Successful completion of this project will allow the use of this approach to treat cancer patients. 

 

jessica thaxton 

Jessica Thaxton, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor, Orthopaedics and Physical Medicine

Project: Metabolic Remodeling of Protein Synthesis to Improve Cancer Immunotherapy

T cells comprise a pool of endogenous immune cells with the power to regress solid tumors. However, in the hostile environment of tumors T cells undergo a response to stress that leaves them unable to combat tumor growth. We have found that modulation of T cell metabolism can prepare T cells to better survive and function in tumors and relieve their tumor-induced stress. This proposal will test the ability of the FDA-approved drug Omacetaxine to modulate T cell metabolism in tumors and to allow standard immunotherapy to work better.

 

mark rubinstein 

Mark Rubinstein, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Surgery

Project: Assessing CD8+ T Cell and NK Cell Responses versus MHC Class I Expression in Cancer Patients Treated with an IL-15 Superagonist during Progression on Anti-PD-1 mAb Therapy