Physician researchers from Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C., and John Theurer Cancer Center (JTCC) in Hackensack, N.J., have formed the Regional Immunotherapy Discovery Program.
The Regional Immunotherapy Discovery Program will accelerate discovery and implementation of a new immunotherapy approach, which combines the full potential of two potent strategies currently used in treating cancer: cancer immunotherapy and bone marrow stem cell transplantation.
Louis M. Weiner, M.D., director of Georgetown Lombardi, said, "The future of successful cancer therapy will rely heavily upon immunotherapy—the power of the immune system to recognize and destroy malignant cells, and then to remember and eliminate cancers that try to recur."
Georgetown Lombardi, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, and JTCC, part of Hackensack University Medical Center, already offer advanced clinical trials using investigational immunotherapy drugs. And both offer transplant programs that manipulate the immune cells via both allogeneic (donor) and autologous (patient) transplants to treat patients with blood cancers.
"By combining these two strategies in attacking cancer, we believe it's possible to optimize the true promise of immunotherapy and extend treatment options to specific patient populations," said André Goy, M.D., MS, chairman of JTCC. "This approach only now is emerging at a very limited number of cancer centers in the U.S."
One example of the new strategy would be to combine an immunotherapy drug such as a PD-1 inhibitor, which selectively unleashes immune cells, with an adoptive cellular therapy to assist reconstitution of the immune system following immune cell-depleting chemotherapy. This strategy is designed to deliver an overwhelming blow against a blood cancer.
In addition to the therapeutic impact, the Regional Immunotherapy Discovery Program has broad regional accessibility via physician researchers from Georgetown Lombardi in Washington, the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Network in Maryland and Washington, Regional Cancer Care Associates (RCCA) with offices throughout New Jersey, and JTTC in Hackensack.
Michael B. Atkins, M.D., deputy director of Georgetown Lombardi, and Andrew L. Pecora, M.D., president of RCCA, will lead the program, which builds on an oncology affiliation that Georgetown Lombardi, a National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated-comprehensive cancer center, and JTCC established in 2013. The two institutions are working toward becoming an NCI-recognized consortium center, in which investigators from separate but collaborating scientific institutions contribute actively to the development and actualization of a specific cancer research agenda.