State-of-the-Art Immune Cell Laboratory to Foster New Immunotherapies for Cancer Patients
Baltimore – The University of Maryland School of Medicine today held the ceremonial opening of the Fannie Angelos Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory, a state-of-the-art facility that will allow scientists to create the next generation of cancer cures – cells that help a patient’s immune system attack and eliminate cancer. The laboratory will also be used to study and develop ways to engineer cells for a wide variety of other illnesses, including diabetes and heart disease.
The laboratory is made possible by a $1 million gift from Baltimore lawyer and Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, as well as donations from other benefactors.
The opening was part of a daylong event focused on cancer immunotherapy, a new treatment that involves modifying the immune system to enable it to better attack cancer cells. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, who in 2015 received treatment for lymphoma at the University of Maryland Medical Center, attended the event.
The state-of-the-art laboratory, part of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC), will produce cell-based therapies and cancer vaccines for immunotherapy research. The research will be conducted by physician-scientists from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). Currently, researchers must rely on outside facilities and other academic institutions for genetically modified cells to treat patients in clinical trials.
“Having our own cell-processing laboratory will increase our ability to offer novel and promising cell-based therapies to our patients,” says Aaron P. Rapoport, MD, professor of medicine and the Gary Jobson Professor in Medical Oncology at UMSOM and director of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program and co-leader of the Tumor Immunology & Immunotherapy research program at the cancer center. “It will also help our investigators move their basic and preclinical research into the clinic more quickly so that patients may benefit from our discoveries.”
In recent years, immunotherapy has emerged as a promising treatment for certain types of cancer. A patient’s own immune cells, or T cells, can be genetically engineered to recognize and attack a cancer. Last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two versions of immunotherapy, which are known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapies – one for children and young adults with leukemia and another for adults with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The latter is now offered at UMGCCC. In addition, researchers are testing cancer vaccines and antibody-based therapies to stimulate the immune system to kill other kinds of cancer cells.
The ribbon-cutting was followed by a lecture by Carl H. June, MD, the director of translational research at the Abramson Cancer Center at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. June has collaborated for years with Dr. Rapoport, and is a pioneer in the development of CAR T-cell therapy. The lecture is part of Dr. June having this year received the prestigious Passano Award. Every year since 1945, the Passano Foundation has honored a scientist who has made an outstanding contribution to the advancement of medical science and whose work has been done in the United States. Dr. June is sharing the award with Michel Sadelain, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Cell Engineering at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
The new laboratory will be a resource for all the clinical departments and divisions at UMSOM, including hematology/oncology, cardiology, surgery and neurotrauma. Researchers at three University of Maryland campuses – the University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland, College Park; and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County – will have access to the laboratory, which will also provide leased space to private biomedical companies.
Dr. Rapoport’s research has focused on using a patient’s own genetically engineered immune cells to treat blood cancers. Since 1998, he has led six major clinical trials, with more than 150 patients. The results of his latest study, from 2015, showed significant success using genetically modified T cells to treat patients with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.
The laboratory is named in honor of Mr. Angelos’ sister, Fannie Angelos, who died in 2015 of complications from a bone marrow disorder. Dr. Rapoport was one of her oncologists.
Curt Civin, MD, professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Physiology at UMSOM, and director of the UMSOM Center for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, and Associate Dean for Research at the school, served as a consultant/advisor to Dr. Rapoport and the team that designed and developed the lab, providing guidance and support. “It has long been my dream to have such a facility on our campus, and we are very grateful for Mr. Angelos’ generous support to help make it a reality,” Dr. Civin said.
The Fannie Angelos Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory – a GMP (Good Manufacturing Process) and Clean Room Facility – was also made possible by a $250,000 gift from Neil Kishter, a longtime supporter of the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program who is the founder of the Kishter Group, a wealth management firm in Washington, DC. Additional support comes from a $500,000 gift from the family of philanthropists Hamish and Christine Osborne. Hamish Osborne, who died in July 2016, and his wife, have been generous supporters of UMSOM. The family’s gift will fund the laboratory director’s position – the Hamish and Christine Osborne Director of Cellular Therapeutics.
“Immunotherapy is an extremely exciting area of scientific endeavor, especially for the treatment of cancer,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs at UM Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “This new laboratory has the potential to yield groundbreaking findings, not only for scientists studying cancer but for many other disciplines as well.”
About the University of Maryland School of Medicine
Commemorating its 210th Anniversary, the University of Maryland School of Medicine was chartered in 1807 as the first public medical school in the United States. It continues today as one of the fastest growing, top-tier biomedical research enterprises in the world -- with 43 academic departments, centers, institutes, and programs; and a faculty of more than 3,000 physicians, scientists, and allied health professionals, including members of the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Sciences, and a distinguished recipient of the Albert E. Lasker Award in Medical Research. With an operating budget of more than $1 billion, the School of Medicine works closely in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and Medical System to provide research-intensive, academic and clinically-based care for more than 1.2 million patients each year. The School has over 2,500 students, residents, and fellows, and nearly $450 million in extramural funding, with most of its academic departments highly ranked among all medical schools in the nation in research funding. As one of the seven professional schools that make up the University of Maryland Baltimore campus, the School of Medicine has a total workforce of nearly 7,000 individuals. The combined School and Medical System (“University of Maryland Medicine”) has an annual budget of nearly $6 billion and an economic impact in excess of $15 billion on the state and local community. The School of Medicine faculty, which ranks as the 8th-highest public medical school in research productivity, is an innovator in translational medicine, with 600 active patents and 24 start-up companies. The School works locally, nationally, and globally, with research and treatment facilities in 36 countries around the world. Visit medschool.umaryland.edu/
About the University of Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center
The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center is a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore. The center is a joint entity of the University of Maryland Medical Center and University of Maryland School of Medicine. It offers a multidisciplinary approach to treating all types of cancer and has an active cancer research program. It is ranked among the top cancer programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.