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Collaboration for a Cure: Parker Institute at Penn Boosts Immunotherapy Research

Carl June and Robert Vonderheide working together in a laboratory

A cure for cancer may be on the way, and Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center is excited to be a part of the process.

The University of Pennsylvania has recently joined the Parker Institute for Immunotherapy, a collaborative research partnership that will allow us to further work towards our goal of fighting and curing cancer.

This partnership will unite a total of six of the nation’s top medical schools and cancer centers to further research immunotherapy, a form of treatment that has shown enormous potential and promise for fighting against cancer cells in early clinical trials.

The Parker Institute is being funded by a $250 million gift from the Parker Foundation, the single largest contribution ever made in the field of immunotherapy.

Penn's Role

To continue our immunotherapy research and kick off the collaboration, Penn has been awarded an initial $10 to $15 million worth of funding. This contribution will help to support laboratory studies, clinical trials, recruitment of faculty and training and support services. Funding in the form of project grants, shared resources and central funding is also expected to grow on an annual basis.

Carl June, MD, is serving as the director of the Parker Institute at Penn. Robert Vonderheide, MD, and John Wherry, PhD, serve as co-directors.

The Parker Institute TeamLaunch of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, with Carl June

The Parker Institute for Immunotherapy includes 300 researchers from the Abramson Cancer Center and five other leading centers including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Stanford Medicine; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, San Francisco; and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. A total of 40 laboratories will be used by all of the schools and cancer centers within this collaboration.

"We are tremendously excited to join this collaboration, which will allow us to investigate promising new immunotherapy avenues for the treatment of cancer outside of our institutional silos in very unique ways," says Dr. June. "Working together will enable us to make quicker progress as we work to translate our laboratory findings into clinical trials."

The main goal for everyone involved with this collaboration is to find new ways to treat cancer using immunotherapy and to turn more cancers into curable diseases.

Through the partnership, all intellectual property will be shared across each medical school and cancer center, allowing researchers to be given immediate access to a broad range of core discoveries.

Here at Penn, researchers will first study the ability of oncolytic adenoviruses to enhance T cell therapy efficiency and cancer prevention vaccines. They will then continue to their research focusing primarily on both basic science and clinical areas.

More About Immunotherapy

Immunotherapy is treatment that uses certain parts of the immune system to fight cancer or to lessen the side effects that may be caused by some cancer treatments.

This can include stimulating your own immune system to work harder, or using an outside source, such as immune system proteins developed in the laboratory. Other terms used to describe immunotherapy include biologic response modifiers and biologic therapy.

The immune system is a network of cells and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by foreign substances. This network is one of the body's main defenses against disease. It works against disease, including cancer, in many ways. For example, the immune system may recognize the difference between healthy cells and cancer cells and work to eliminate those that become cancerous. Cancer may develop when the immune system breaks down or is not functioning adequately.

Immunotherapies are designed to repair, stimulate, or enhance the immune system's responses.

Abramson Cancer Center researchers have been developing novel immune therapies for the treatment of cancer. These therapies include cancer vaccines, immune modulatory drugs, and cell-based therapies with state-of-the-art technologies including gene therapy, monoclonal antibodies, and T-cell engineering.

Current research focuses on patients with pancreatic cancer, melanoma, myeloma and other hematological malignancies.

About This Blog

The Focus on Cancer blog discusses a variety of cancer-related topics, including treatment advances, research efforts and clinical trials, nutrition, support groups, survivorship and patient stories.

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