The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society recently announced it has committed an additional $46 million to fund innovative blood cancer research at leading medical institutions around the world. Headquartered in Rye Brook, the nonprofit health care organization has invested more than $1 billion in cancer research in its nearly 70-year history.
Recipients of the new funding include Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where Dr. Eric Smith received a Special Fellow Award, granted to help scientists earlier in their careers, to optimize T-cell immunotherapy for patients with multiple myeloma.
Among 87 new research projects, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society will fund 17 immunotherapy projects and 23 grants for research in precision medicine, a targeted approach “to finding the right drug for the right patient at the right time,” LLS officials said. Projects will include novel therapies to combat myeloma, which remains an incurable disease, and acute myeloid leukemia or AML, for which four new therapies were approved in recent months, the first in 40 years, according to LLS officials.
The Rye Brook organization also awarded 36 grants totaling $10.3 million in its career development program to foster the early careers of the next generation of scientists. Its active research portfolio has grown to 254 grants, more investment in blood cancer research than any nonprofit or government agency outside of the National Institutes of Health, according to Leukemia & Lymphoma Society officials.
“There is never a good time to get cancer, but it’s a phenomenal time to be fighting it,” said Louis J. DeGennaro, LLS president and CEO. “Already in 2017, the FDA has approved 13 new blood cancer treatments or new indications and LLS has supported virtually all of them. Our long-term vision and investment is paying off in our impact for patients.”
LLS also invests approximately $10 million annually in its venture philanthropy initiative, TAP or therapy acceleration program, through which the organization partners with biotechnology companies to speed development of novel therapies through clinical trials. Two of those partnerships this year resulted in U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals for a groundbreaking chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell immunotherapy approach for patients with relapsed large B-cell lymphoma – in which the patient’s own immune cells are re-engineered to find and kill cancer cells – and for a novel combination therapy for AML patients.
Over the past two decades, LLS has invested $40 million in CAR T-cell therapy at multiple institutions. It is committed to funding $34 million in CAR T-cell and other immunotherapies.
DeGennaro noted that 1.3 million people in the U.S. live with a blood cancer. “We are seeing extraordinary progress in blood cancer research but with one third of blood cancer patients still not surviving five years past their diagnoses, we clearly have more work to do,” he said.