Mackall awarded $11.9 million for anti-leukemia clinical trial

The California Institute for Regenerative Medicine awarded Stanford researcher Crystal Mackall a grant to study immune cells genetically modified to attack two proteins on leukemia and lymphoma cells.

Crystal Mackall

Crystal Mackall, MD, professor of pediatrics and of medicine at the School of Medicine, was awarded $11.9 million by the governing board of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine on April 26 to fund a clinical trial of immune cells genetically modified to recognize two proteins on the surface of leukemia and lymphoma cells.

Mackall directs the Stanford Center for Cancer Cell Therapy, where the trial will be conducted.

The trial will test the ability of specially modified immune cells called CAR-T cells to recognize and kill B-cell leukemia and B-cell lymphoma cells bearing one or both of two proteins: CD19 and CD22. A similar technique using CAR-T cells that target only CD19-bearing leukemia and lymphoma cells led to the approval in 2017 of two new cell therapies for the treatment of cancer by the Food and Drug Administration.

“When a patient is told that their cancer has returned it can be devastating news,” said Maria Millan, MD, president and CEO of CIRM. “CAR-T cell therapy is an exciting and promising new approach that offers us a way to help patients fight back against a relapse, using their own cells to target and destroy the cancer.”

Mackall is the associate director of the Stanford Cancer Institute and the director of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy at Stanford. Her award was one of three approved at the meeting. The others were an $8 million grant to Sangamo Therapeutics to test a new therapy for the blood disease beta-thalassemia and a $12 million grant to researchers at UC-San Francisco to develop a new treatment for children with severe combined immunodeficiency. With these awards, the stem cell institute has funded 48 clinical trials, 42 of which are active.

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