Research Could Tap Potential of Immune System in Fighting Cancer and Delivery of Cancer Vaccines for Children

(Philadelphia, PA) - Christina M. Coughlin, MD, PhD, a research fellow in the University of Pennsylvania's Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute, has received the Fellow Basic Research Award for 2003 from the Society for Pediatric Research. The prize was awarded for her work in showing that modified immune cells can efficiently deliver genetic material to stimulate a desirable immune response. This research could lead the way for future cancer vaccines for children.

Dr. Coughlin conducts research in the laboratory of Robert H. Vonderheide, MD, DPhil at Penn's Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute; she is also a pediatric hematology-oncology fellow at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Her research, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Vonderheide and Stephan A. Grupp, M.D., Ph.D., director of Stem Cell Biology at CHOP, included the manipulation of immune cells known as CD40-activated B cells to carry RNA produced by tumors and viruses. The activated B cells could stimulate the creation of other immune cells capable of recognizing - and killing - the tumors and viruses that also carry these RNA strains.

"We are particularly proud of this work and the collaborative initiative among all the investigators at both institutions," said Dr. Vonderheide. "This award recognizes Dr. Coughlin's leadership at the national level and the beneficiaries of this work are children with cancer."

Dr. Coughlin will be presented with her award at the Society for Pediatric Research Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, May 3-6. In addition, she will present her work at a platform session during the meeting.

The Society for Pediatric Research encourages young investigators to engage in research that is of benefit to children by providing a forum for interchange of ideas and an opportunity for young investigators to present their work.The Society for Pediatric Research annually honors students, house officers and fellows engaged in pediatric research. The awards are designed to encourage pediatricians in training to pursue careers in academic pediatrics. Winning candidates are selected by a committee from the Society for Pediatric Research based on the quality of the work presented in the abstract.

The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania is one of only 31 cancer centers in the nation designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. This status reflects the Cancer Center's excellence in research, treatment, community outreach, professional education, and information services. The NCI mark of excellence assures patients and families that they have selected physicians and services that are recognized nationally and that they will benefit from the latest research advances.

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Penn Medicine is one of the world’s leading academic medical centers, dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and excellence in patient care. Penn Medicine consists of the Raymond and Ruth Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System, which together form a $7.8 billion enterprise.

The Perelman School of Medicine has been ranked among the top five medical schools in the United States for the past 20 years, according to U.S. News & World Report’s survey of research-oriented medical schools. The School is consistently among the nation’s top recipients of funding from the National Institutes of Health, with $405 million awarded in the 2017 fiscal year.

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Penn Medicine is committed to improving lives and health through a variety of community-based programs and activities. In fiscal year 2017, Penn Medicine provided $500 million to benefit our community.

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