Scientists awarded $12.7 million for cancer immunotherapy trial

DEC. 13, 2013

With this award, Stanford has received about $290 million from the stem cell agency. CIRM was established in November 2004 with the passage of a statewide ballot measure that provided $3 billion in funding for stem cell research at California universities and research institutions.

Weissman is director of Stanford’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine and the Virginia & D.K. Ludwig Professor for Clinical Investigation in Cancer Research. He is also a member of the Stanford Cancer Institute.

This round of grants, presented during a meeting of the agency’s governing board in Los Angeles, is aimed primarily at furthering the development of previously funded, and successfully completed, CIRM projects.

Stanford’s funding was a portion of the roughly $61 million awarded Dec. 12 as part of the state stem cell agency’s third round of disease team grants. Other diseases targeted by successful grant applications include sickle cell disease and macular degeneration.

BY KRISTA CONGER

Researchers at the School of Medicine have been awarded $12.7 million from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine to move toward phase-1 clinical trials of an anti-cancer antibody called anti-CD47.

The Stanford team, headed by Irving Weissman, MD, professor of pathology and of developmental biology, received $20 million from the agency for the project in 2009 to develop an antibody to CD47, a molecule found on the surface of cancer stem cells that appears to protect the cells from attack from the immune system. The researchers call CD47 the “don’t eat me” molecule. Tests of the antibody in mice bearing human tumors have shown that the antibody allows the animals’ immune system to destroy the cancer stem cells. The researchers will use the new funding to support future phase-1 trials in patients with acute myelogenous leukemia or solid cancers for which there are no standard treatment options.

Irving Weissman

“The goal of the Disease Team Award is to help accelerate the development of new therapies,” said CIRM president Alan Trounson, PhD. “I think this is the sharp end of the CIRM program — we need to get therapies into clinical trials. The scientists are working together as teams to demonstrate the safety and efficacy of their products that have evolved from discoveries in the laboratory. What’s impressive about this series of awards is that five of the six successful applications are for the continuation of work we had previously funded. It’s a reflection of the importance of continuity of funding, enabling scientists to keep their teams together and move their work forward as quickly as possible.”

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