2013 Research Grant

Engineered T cells against WT1 for Treatment of Acute Myeloid Leukemia. 

Conducted by Dr. Sarwish Rafiq at the Sloan Kettering Institute for Cancer Research. Funded in Partnership with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

One of the most promising frontiers in the fight against cancer is immunology, in which scientists engineer the body’s own immune system to seek out and kill cancer cells. Dr. Rafiq plans to take T cells, which are the cells that normally identify and destroy infection but are unable to recognize cancer, and engineer them to recognize and kill acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells.

You can see how re-enginnered T-cells work in the video below.

Dr. Rafiq will design T cells to hone in on a protein called Wilms-Tumor 1 (WT1), which is expressed on the surface of AML cells. Dr. Rafiq plans to further enhance the T cell’s potency by having them release a protein called IL-12. She will test the treatment against AML patient samples and mouse models with the ultimate goal of bringing a highly targeted, low-toxicity treatment to the clinic for AML patients.

This research builds on experimental techniques developed by another team of scientists that were successful at saving the life of a seven year old girl with relapsed acute lymphblastic leukemia, as reported in the New York Times earlier this year.

Dr. Rafiq is working in the lab of Dr. Renier Brentjens, where the focus is on novel treatments utilizing the patient's own immune system and specifically involving the genetic manipulation of patients' immune cells to recognize and kill their own cancer cells.