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MCW Receives Grant from National Cancer Institute to Develop Novel Cellular Immunotherapy

May 7, 2014

The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has received a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Cancer Institute to support development of novel immune cell-based therapies to cancer.

Subramaniam Malarkannan, Ph.D., associate professor of hematology and oncology at MCW and senior investigator at the Blood Research Institute, BloodCenter of Wisconsin, is the principal investigator of the grant. Research in the Malarkannan laboratory focuses on understanding signaling pathways in Natural Killer (NK) cells, a major immune cell type that is potent in killing tumor cells.

“This NIH funding will help us to vastly improve our current therapy through a unique genetic modification of the NK cells,” said Malarkannan. “Through our work, BloodCenter of Wisconsin and MCW will be recognized as leaders in novel cellular therapy programs in the nation.”

Inflammation is an important component of the immune response, but it can also be detrimental to health if the inflammatory response is uncontrolled or prolonged. Mechanisms that trigger the release of inflammatory mediators—halting that process at the appropriate time-- are largely unknown. The Malarkannan laboratory has recently identified biological molecules responsible for the production of inflammatory mediators in NK cells. This grant will fund efforts to devise strategies specifically targeting these molecules to reduce inflammation, while preserving the beneficial cytotoxic function of immune cells in diseases such as cancer.
The results of this project may improve the effectiveness of current cancer therapies and offers novel interventions applicable to other conditions associated with acute or chronic inflammation.

This project is supported by NCI grant 1R01CA179363.

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