October 20, 2004

Karen Kreeger
(215) 349-5658


Penn Researcher Receives $1 Million Grant for Cancer Gene Therapy Research

(Philadelphia, PA) - Carl June, MD, Director of Translational Research at the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania and Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine in Penn’s School of Medicine, is one of two recipients of the first grant awarded by the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, Inc. (ACGT) for research in treating lymphoma and leukemia. As the only national foundation devoted exclusively to funding cancer gene therapy research, the mission of ACGT is to identify and fund innovative scientific research on the causes, treatment, and prevention of all types of cancer, using cells and genes as medicine.

"We have recently developed a new strategy to create T cells that express a hybrid gene that endows the engineered T cells with the ability to specifically kill leukemia cells,” says June. “With this grant from the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy we plan to carry out a Phase 1 clinical trial - an initial trial designed not to assess effectiveness, but rather to determine the optimal dose and measure toxicity - in patients with advanced or recurrent leukemia who have not responded to prior chemotherapy.”

June and his collaborator, David Porter, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, will receive about $1 million over the next three to four years to use genetically engineered T cells to target leukemia and lymphomas. If properly activated, T cells have a strong capacity to kill tumor cells.

Michel Sadelain, MD, PhD, from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York also received a $1 million ACGT grant for a parallel study, which uses a different vector to carry hybrid genes into T cells. Comparing the outcomes of these two clinical trials will provide important information to better engineer the immune system to fight leukemia and lymphoma. June and Sadelain were selected by ACGT’s 12-member Scientific Advisory Council, which includes some of the nation’s most preeminent physicians and researchers in cancer gene therapy.


The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania was established in 1973 as a center of excellence in cancer research, patient care, education and outreach. Today, the Abramson Cancer Center ranks as one of the nation’s best in cancer care, according to U.S. News & World Report, and is one of the top five in National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding. It is one of only 39 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States. Home to one of the largest clinical and research programs in the world, the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania has 275 active cancer researchers and 250 Penn physicians involved in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

PENN Medicine is a $2.7 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation’s first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System (created in 1993 as the nation’s first integrated academic health system).

Penn’s School of Medicine is ranked #3 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #4 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report’s most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.

Penn Health System is comprised of: its flagship hospital, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, consistently rated one of the nation’s “Honor Roll” hospitals by U.S. News & World Report; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; Presbyterian Medical Center; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multispecialty satellite facilities; and home health care and hospice.

This release is available online at http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/oct04/ACGTgrant.htm