May 25, 2014 – Arnob Banerjee, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a researcher at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC), received a $250,000 grant to study cancer immunotherapy, a treatment approach that enables a patient's own immune system to fight the disease.
The grant was provided by the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT), which supports innovative and translational research into cell- and gene-based cancer treatments. Dr. Banerjee received the funding through ACGT's Young Investigator Grants program.
With this funding, Dr. Banerjee is developing methods to program T cells – cells in the body that fight infection to target and reject cancer cells, thereby eradicating the disease. Dr. Banerjee's preclinical work complements that of other University of Maryland researchers through the UMGCC's Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy Research Program and other top researchers around the country.
While still in development, immunotherapy has shown great potential as a standalone cancer treatment and when used in combination with more traditional treatments, such as chemotherapy and radiation. At multiple sites throughout the United States, clinical trials testing immunotherapy for different types of blood cancer proved it to be effective when chemo and radiation failed. And, unlike its counterparts, immunotherapy may have fewer side effects.
"In the short run, I think what it means is that patients who have already had radiation therapy and chemotherapy and still have these cancers... still have hope," says Dr. Banerjee.
To learn more about Dr. Banjeree's study and what immunotherapy could mean to patients, watch ABC2's May 22, 2014 story, Exploring Immunotherapy.