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Research is at the core of what we do. Patients receiving treatment at Penn Medicine for cancer and blood disorders are right next door to the research centers where breakthroughs are being discovered every day. They are being treated by experts in hematology and medical oncology who are working relentlessly to find new ways to prevent, detect and treat these diseases.

The Hematology/Oncology division focuses in pioneering basic science, translational research, and clinical research. Hematology/Oncology faculty are engaged in diverse research fields, ranging from the most fundamental cellular investigations, to the most leading edge translational and clinical research.

Chief accomplishments include transformative science in immunology, cell biology, germ line genetics, and hematopoiesis. Clinical trials with impact ranging from bench to bedside discovery to multiple FDA approvals, including FDA approval of CAR T cells as the first cancer gene therapy. Our faculty are engaged in research to find a cure for sickle cell anemia and develop novel strategies to develop an effective HIV vaccine.

We are:

  • Heavily focused on translational team science and collaboration
  • Translating discovery into clinical investigations
  • Refining precision tumor profiling and personalized medicine
  • Leveraging big data to better understand treatment outcomes and clinical care
  • Using behavioral strategies and predictive analytics to enhance patient care

Faculty members are the principal investigators for a number of grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NCI, and other institutions. These include RO1s, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Grants, ASH and ASCO Scholar Grants, P50s, U54s, PO1s and SPORE grants and lead national clinical trials.

Advances in Clinical/Translational Research/Outcomes Research

Ronac Mamtanire headshotToday, more and more people are surviving cancer. It is because of clinical trials, many of which are conducted at here, that patients are benefiting from breakthrough therapies and treatments. Divisional Faculty have contributed significantly to the major advances in cancer care and cancer treatment through research and clinical trials.

Notable achievements include:

  • Enrollment of more than 600 patients on Abramson Cancer Center Clinical Trials in therapeutic trials and more than 2000 patients on nontherapeutic clinical trials.
  • First in human phase I clinical trial to test safety of CRISPR engineered T cells in patients with refractory cancer.
  • FDA approval of CART T therapy, Tisagenlecleucel (KymriahTM), for B Cell Lymphoma
  • Clinical trial of FLT 3 inhibitor- Gilteritinib lead to FDA approval for patients with AML
  • Determined the benefit of adding chemotherapy to Pembrolizumab in Lung Cancer
  • Conducted clinical trial of Selinexor which lead to FDA approval for patients with myeloma
  • Benefit of Fulvestrant and palbociclib for women with breast cancer
  • Determined activity of Olaparib for patients with BRCA associated ovarian cancer which led to FDA approval
  • Role of Hemophilia B gene therapy for Hemophilia
  • Understanding mechanism of resistance to chimeric antigen receptor T cell therapy
  • Defined Carfilzomib Associated Cardiovascular Associated Adverse Events
  • Nonviral RNA chimeric antigen receptor-modified T cells in patients with Hodgkin lymphoma.
  • Clinical trial of Anti-CD19 CAR T cells with high dose melphalan and autologous stem cell transplantation for refractory multiple myeloma.
  • Understanding that PD-1 blockade leads to unexpectedly rapid immune reinvigoration and clinical impact in patients with melanoma
  • Role of somatic mutation testing circulating of DNA in patients with lung cancer.
  • Influential papers in germ line genetics and BRAC associated cancers on preventative mastectomy; genetic testing; and direct to consumer genetic testing

Bench-to-Bedside Clinical Translational Research.

Doctors having a meetingCAR T cells in leukemia and NHL (Schuster et al., NEJM, 2017; Maude et al., NEJM, 2018; Schuster et al., NEJM, 2019).
First-ever CRISPR trial with CAR T in myeloma (Science, 2020).
HCQ to inhibit autophagy in cancer (Karasic et al., JAMA Onc, 2019; Haas et al., Clin Can Res, 2019).
CD40 immune agonists in pancreatic cancer (Byrne et al., Cell Rep, 2016)
Neoadjuvant immune checkpoint therapy in melanoma (Huang et al., Nat Med, 2019)
Therapeutic HPV/IL-12 DNA vaccine for head and neck cancer (Aggarwal et al., Clin Canc Res, 2019.
Cell free DNA in lung cancer (Aggarwal et al., JAMA Onc, 2019; the most downloaded oncology paper in the JAMA network in 2019);
Pharmacodynamics of PD-1 inhibition in melanoma (Huang et al., Nature, 2018);
Response and resistance to CAR T cell therapy (O’Rourke et al., Sci Transl Med, 2017; Fraietta et al. Nature, 2018; Fraietta et al., Nat Med, 2018; Ruella et al., Nat Med, 2018);
T cell response to neoantigen vaccines (Linette et al., PNAS, 2019);
Targeted therapy resistance in melanoma (Ojha et al., Cancer Discov, 2019) and leukemia (McMahon et al., Cancer Discov; 2019);
Molecular imaging response to CDK4/6 inhibition in breast cancer (Elmi et al., Clin Can Res, 2019).

Heath Services Research/Cancer Outcomes

Association between FDA label restriction and immunotherapy and chemotherapy in bladder cancer. Parikh, Mamtani et al. (JAMA 2019)
Machine learning approaches to predict 6-month mortality among patients with cancer. Parikh, Manz (JAMA 2019)
Gender and Byline Placement of Co-first authors in clinical and basic science journals with high impact factors (JAMA 2018)

Clinical Trials for Patients

  • Penn's Abramson Cancer Center, an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center, oversees one of the largest clinical trial programs in the country, with more than 200 trials available at any one time.
  • These new advances in cancer treatment are occurring every day, giving patients hope that even greater discoveries lie ahead.
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