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Groundbreaking Leukemia Research Featured at ASH Annual Meeting

Published on December 9, 2013 in Cornerstone Blog · Last updated 6 months ago


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The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s groundbreaking leukemia research was on display at the recent American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting. Held in New Orleans, the ASH Annual Meeting brought together approximately 20,000 researchers, clinicians, and industry representatives, with data from more than 5,300 abstracts presented.

Notably, Children’s Hospital’s Stephan A. Grupp, MD, PhD, co-chaired a special session on immunotherapy and gave a talk on his investigation of treating acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) with engineered T cells. The most common form of leukemia found in children, ALL is largely curable, with a roughly 85 percent cure rate. However, the remaining 15 percent of ALL cases resist standard therapy.

Dr. Grupp, director of Translational Research for the Center for Childhood Cancer Research, in April published a study in The New England Journal of Medicine showing two leukemia patients achieved complete responses — a disappearance of cancer — after receiving T cells engineered to selectively kill cancerous cells.

And on December 7 at the ASH Annual Meeting, Dr. Grupp and colleagues presented exciting, promising follow-up results of their T cell clinical trial. Of the 24 pediatric and adult patients who have been treated for ALL, 18 had ongoing complete responses at a median of 2.6 months after treatment.

One of Dr. Grupp’s patients, then 7-year-old Emily Whitehead, was the first pediatric patient to receive the engineered T cells in April of 2012. Though the treatment led to a life-threatening illness — known as cytokine release syndrome — Emily recovered after Dr. Grupp and his team were able to treat her symptoms. Since receiving the T cells, Emily remains healthy and cancer-free.

“Our results serve as another important milestone in demonstrating the potential of this cell therapy for patients who have no other therapeutic options,” said Dr. Grupp at ASH.

A number of other CHOP investigators’ leukemia-related projects were also featured at the meeting. Oncologist David Teachey, MD, presented his investigation of autoimmune cytopenias, including Automimmune Lymphoproliferative Syndrome, an inherited disorder that can lead to autoimmune issues and enlarged organs due to an accumulation of white blood cells. And Sarah Tasian, MD, an instructor in the Division of Oncology, presented her work on Philadelphia chromosome-like acute ALL.

To read more about the 2013 ASH Annual Meeting, see the ASH website. To learn more about The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s pediatric leukemia research, see the CHOP site.