Rutgers Cancer Institute to use $3.1M grant to study mutated cancers’ immune response

A $3.1 million, five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health will help Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey scientists investigate the immune response to highly mutated cancers, the university announced this week.

Principal investigators Eileen White, Edmund Lattime and Shridar Ganesan are conducting the research on why only 25-30% of tumors with mutations respond to otherwise-successful “checkpoint inhibitor” immunotherapy drugs.

The team will examine mutations and tumors using novel mouse models developed by White.

“These unique models enable us to study an anti-tumor immune response to further elucidate why some 75% of patients have cancers that don’t respond to checkpoint inhibitor treatment and how we can make them responsive,” White, the deputy director, chief scientific officer and associate director for basic research at RCI, and a distinguished professor of molecular biology and biochemistry at Rutgers University, said in a prepared statement.

The team is building on research from a 2014 clinical trial led by the Phase 1/Investigational Therapeutics Program at RCI.

Ganesan is Omar Boraie Chair in Genomic Science at RCI and a professor of medicine and pharmacology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Lattime is a professor of surgery and professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the medical school.

The work supported by the grant helped to inspire philanthropic support and inform the launch of the Duncan and Nancy MacMillan Cancer Immunology and Metabolism Center of Excellence at the institute, it said.