ATLANTA — Carl H. June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of Translational Research in Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center, will be honored as a recipient of the American Society of Hematology’s 2012 Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize today at the 54th ASH Annual Meeting and Exposition.
June will receive the prize along with Bruce R. Blazar, MD, of the University of Minnesota, for their significant advances in the field of bone marrow transplantation (BMT) and adoptive immunotherapy.
The Ernest Beutler Lecture and Prize -- named for the late Ernest Beutler, MD, a past president of ASH and physician-scientist for more than 50 years -- is a two-part lectureship that recognizes major translational advances related to a single topic. This award honors two individuals, one who has enabled advances in basic science and another for achievements in clinical science or translational research.
June has not only contributed to advances in the understanding of immune cell biology, but has also opened new avenues for the immunologic treatment of cancer. Although trained as a clinician, he has spent a majority of his career in the laboratory, focusing his research on the use of immunotherapy as a cure for cancer.
In 2011, his team from the Perelman School of Medicine reported on success using genetically engineered versions of patients’ own T cells to attack tumors in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Two of the first three patients treated with the new protocol – whose cases were detailed in the New England Journal of Medicine and Science Translational Medicine in August 2011 – remain healthy and in full remission more than two years after their treatment, with the engineered cells still circulating in their bodies. The findings reveal the first successful and sustained demonstration of the use of gene transfer therapy to turn the body’s own immune cells into weapons aimed at cancerous tumors. During this year’s ASH meeting, his team will present updated results of their trial, which included 10 adult patients with chronic lymphocytic leukemia treated at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and two children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia treated at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Nine of the 12 patients have responded to the therapy.
June and Blazar will present their lecture, “T-Cell Infusions: A New Tool for Transfusion Medicine That Has Come of Age,” today. During the session, they will discuss the use of adoptive T-cell therapy as an emerging form of transfusion therapy that has potential to establish tolerance to hematopoietic or solid organs allografts, treat autoimmunity, and promote immunity to cancer and chronic infection.
Visit the ASH web site for the full press release about the award.