The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) continues to advance the promising field of immunotherapy research, harnessing the body’s own immune system to fight cancer, with a $4 million funding commitment in an investigational therapy being developed by Forty Seven for lymphoma patients.
There are approximately 630,000 patients in the U.S. living with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a diverse group of blood cancers that begin in the body’s lymphatic system. LLS’s investment will support Forty Seven’s clinical trial using an antibody therapy (Hu5F9-G4) aimed at treating two types of NHL—diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DFBCL) and follicular lymphoma (FL). DLBCL represents approximately 30% of NHL patients, with 60% of patients surviving five years after diagnosis; however, more than one-third of patients either relapse or do not respond to therapy. Approximately 25% of NHL patients are diagnosed with FL, a slow-growing form of the disease. While most patients with FL respond to initial therapy, more than 70% are diagnosed with advanced stage disease and are considered incurable.
The novel drug will be tested in combination with the FDA-approved rituximab, already part of standard treatment for several types of NHL. The therapy is directed against CD47, a protein that provides a “don’t eat me” signal to the immune system and blocks the ability of immune cells called macrophages to devour those cancer cells. The combination Hu5F9-G4 and rituximab displayed synergy in preclinical animal models of NHL.
According to LLS President and CEO Louis J. DeGennaro, Ph.D., "LLS welcomes this collaboration with Forty Seven to advance this novel immunotherapy approach. It’s critical that LLS identifies and acts on the most promising areas of cancer research, and in Forty Seven we have found a partner who is as committed to accelerating cures as we are.”
Forty Seven was founded in 2015 by Stanford University researchers Irv Weissman, M.D., and Ravi Majeti, M.D., Ph.D., both of whom have been recipients of LLS grants supporting their early work targeting CD47. Forty Seven has licensed the therapy from Stanford.
LLS is supporting the collaboration through its Therapy Acceleration Program (TAP), a strategic initiative to partner directly with biotechnology companies to help accelerate the development of promising therapies. There are currently 16 projects supported through LLS’s TAP portfolio.
LLS supports a wide array of immunotherapy programs at major cancer research centers such as Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, as well as through TAP partnerships. LLS is currently committed to more than $40 million to study novel immunotherapy approaches to controlling blood cancers.