Harnessing an immune-based therapy to treat solid cancers

OHSU Biomedical Innovation Program Awards funds researchers to develop new template for treating cancer with immune-based therapy.

OHSU researchers Robert Eil, M.D., and Alexandra Bartlett, Ph.D., aim to modify a therapy that currently treats blood cancers so that it will effectively fight solid tumors in the liver. The project, funded by the 2023 Biomedical Innovation Program, or BIP, in the drug discovery track, may provide a template for treating other solid cancers.       

Photo above: Robert Eil, M.D., and Alexandra Bartlett, Ph.D.

The BIP awards provide funds, project management, and mentorship to support scientists as they develop innovative technologies and bring their innovations to the patients who need them.

2023 BIP Award recipients

Robert Eil, M.D., assistant professor, Division of Surgical Oncology, Department of Cell, Developmental and Cancer Biology, School of Medicine
Alexandra Bartlett, Ph.D., postdoctoral scholar, Eil Lab
“Safe application of CAR T cells for the treatment of solid cancer”

The body’s immune system can recognize cancer and fight cancer, but cancers deploy a number of tools to silence and evade immune-mediated destruction. Training the immune system’s cancer-fighting T cells to more effectively find and destroy cancer is one of the most promising new approaches to treating advanced cancer.

One of the most successful of the immune-based therapies, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, has been remarkably successful in blood cancers. Patients with advanced lymphoma have, in multi-site studies, experienced complete remission, or cure rates, of 40-78%. However, CAR-T cells have not been successfully used to treat solid cancers, which are the cause of 90% of cancer deaths, including lung, colon, pancreas, breast and prostate cancers.

Read more about Eil’s work with CAR T cell therapy.

Previous efforts to use CAR T cells to treat solid cancers have been halted because of an inability to prevent these cells from attacking and damaging healthy tissues surrounding the tumors. In this project, the team aims to modify existing technology to build a safer, more effective CAR T cell to treat metastatic solid cancer. The Eil Lab’s goal is to develop an approach to CAR T cell therapy that would be readily translated to the clinic for treatment of patients with cancer that has metastasized to a single site. If successful, this approach would create a template that could be applied to other solid cancers.

The Biomedical Innovation Program Awards

The BIP, now in its 10th year, is a collaboration of the OHSU Oregon Clinical and Translational Research Institute, OHSU Technology Transfer and OHSU Collaborations and Entrepreneurship. Award funding is provided by OCTRI and the OHSU Foundation via the University Venture Development Fund.




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