CDI Laboratory Secures NIH Funding for Thymus Immunotherapy Research

Zakrzewski Lab Aims to Train Immune System to Make Its Own CAR T-Cells

CDI Lab

A new grant from the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute will fund a physician-scientist from the Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) to investigate ways to harness the body’s natural ability to create chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-Cells for long-term treatment of pediatric blood cancers.

The $2.78 million grant will run over five years and will support the work of Johannes Zakrzewski, M.D., who is an associate member of the CDI and a pediatric stem cell transplant attending physician at Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center and John Theurer Cancer Center, which is part of the NCI-designated Georgetown Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The grant entitled "Harnessing the thymus for long-term tumor control with hematopoietic stem cell-derived naive CAR T cells" seeks to educate the thymus to manufacture tailored immune cells to continue to keep blood cancers in check for years after remission.

“This is translational science. We are hoping to help patients in new critical ways in the future using the latest lab discoveries,” said Zakrzewski, who is also an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics and in the Department of Medical Sciences at the Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine and in the Department of Oncology at Georgetown University.

“The work Johannes is doing is at the cutting edge of next-generation, cell-based immunotherapies, and this embodies the CDI’s mission to accelerate lifesaving science from the bench to the bedside,” said David Perlin, Ph.D., the chief scientific officer and senior vice president of the CDI.

CAR T-Cells are transforming cancer treatment by providing tumor-specific, molecularly targeted therapies. But while the therapies can induce remission in most cases, long-term disease control remains a major clinical challenge–especially in pediatric and young adult cancer patients with high-risk malignancies.

Zakrzewski and his team plan on implementing a novel platform for long-lasting tumor immunosurveillance based on continuous in-vivo generation of naïve CAR T-cells.

Learn more about our advancements in pediatric oncology at Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health.

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