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LSUHSC AWARDED $1.3 MILLION GRANT TO DEVELOP NEW CANCER VACCINE

New Orleans, LA – Eduardo Davila, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Microbiology, and Immunology at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans School of Medicine and Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center, has been awarded a $1.3 million grant over five years by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health to develop new immunotherapies, including a vaccine, for cancer. Two years of the research will be supported by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).

Dr. Davila’s research lab has been working with T lymphocytes, immune cells, which can detect cancer. The LSUHSC research team has identified a novel signaling pathway in T lymphocytes, and they have demonstrated that the stimulation of specific proteins called toll-like receptors (TLRs) on the surface of human T lymphocytes boosts the production of molecules involved in tumor destruction. They have shown that TLRs can induce potent and long-lived anti-tumor activity against a highly aggressive melanoma tumor.

"One arm of this grant is looking at generating/optimizing a cancer vaccine against melanoma and breast cancer," notes Dr. Davila. "Our preclinical data have indicated very promising results showing that we can activate and sustain high numbers of tumor-specific immune cells. Data using human cells parallel these studies and demonstrate the ability to activate human cells indicating promise in treating cancer patients."

The LSUHSC researchers are working to increase our understanding of the underlying mechanisms of TLR activation and to define strategies to maintain potent TLR signals in T cells with the aim of prolonging antitumor T cell responses.

"We envision these studies will make possible new approaches for the development of effective T lymphocyte–based therapies against cancer through a greater understanding of molecular signals that enhance T cell activation to weakly immunogenic tumors in patients," says Dr. Davila. "These are the tumors that grow aggressively because the body’s immune response to them is weak."

The ARRA funding is supporting the retention of a research technician and a postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Davila’s laboratory, as well as the creation of one new position.

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LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans educates the majority of Louisiana's health care professionals.  The state's academic health leader, LSUHSC comprises a School of Medicine, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, Schools of Allied Health Professions and Graduate Studies, as well as the only School of Nursing in Louisiana within an academic health center. LSUHSC faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout Louisiana. In the vanguard of biosciences research in a number of areas worldwide, LSUHSC faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, treat, or cure disease. LSUHSC outreach programs span the state.

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