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TIME’S Top People of the Year: Dr. Carl June and CRISPR Pioneers

Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center researchers Carl June, MD, and Edward Stadtmauer, MD, are poised to launch the nation’s first human trial using CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) for the treatment of cancer. Their plans put them among the “CRISPR Pioneers” ranked at the top of TIME's Person of the Year issue.

CRISPR allows scientists to easily and inexpensively find and modify any piece of DNA in any species.

Dr. June’s goal is to test the ability of a gene editing technology known as CRISPR to treat diseases, like cancer, in humans, by engineering the patients’ own cells in a laboratory and then deploying them in patients’ bodies to potentially fight their disease.

According to TIME, “The hope is that studies like June’s will bear out CRISPR’s therapeutic potential, leading to the development of radical new therapies not just for people with the cancers being studied but for all of them, as well as for genetic diseases such as sickle-cell anemia and cystic fibrosis, and chronic conditions like Type 2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s. It may sound far-fetched, but studies like this one are an enormous first step in that direction.”

The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy is a funder of the CRISPR trial.

The new research will build on Penn’s legacy as a pioneer for new frontiers in cancer treatments. Over the past decade, Dr. June has pioneered new forms of immunotherapy for cancer and chronic infections. He has led several clinical trials involving immunotherapy of genetically engineered T cells to treat blood cancers and solid tumors.

In the following video, Dr. June and other Penn researchers share their experience with Emily Whitehead, the first pediatric patient to receive this experimental immunotherapy to treat her cancer, at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

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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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