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University of Pittsburgh Awarded $7.7 Million for Dendritic Cell Research

University of Pittsburgh Awarded $7.7 Million for Dendritic Cell Research

Investigators at the University of Pittsburgh have received a $7.7 million, 5-year award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to study how dendritic cells participate in: (1) generating immunity against cancer cells, (2) inducing transplant tolerance, and (3) modifying auto-immunity that results in such diseases as diabetes and scleroderma. The grant covers five separate projects in four "core" research facilities.

"This funding provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to expand our study of dendritic cell biology and its importance in disease," said Michael T. Lotze, md, principal investigator of the grant, professor of surgery and of molecular genetics and biochemistry, and co-director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute’s (UPCI) Biological Therapeutics Program. Olivera Finn, phd, professor of molecular genetics, biochemistry, and surgery and director of UPCI’s Program in Immunology is the co-principal investigator of the grant.

Dendritic Cell-Based Therapies to Be Explored

"We have a unique gathering of internationally recognized investigators who are exploring dendritic cell-based therapies at a time when the isolation, culture, and application of these cells to human disease has progressed significantly," added Dr. Lotze.

Dendritic cells, which are found in almost every type of tissue, including lymphatic, blood, and skin, are considered the pacemakers of the immune system. These cells are the first to recognize and process antigens--proteins found on or within intruders, such as viruses or bacteria. Dendritic cells present these foreign antigens to the T-cells of the immune system, which, in turn, assist in antibody production or kill the invaders directly.

Five Projects Funded

The five projects funded by this grant include:

  • A project led by Drs. Lotze and Lou Falo, designed to study the key biological factors necessary for developing potent, dendritic cell-based vaccines against cancer

  • A project led by Dr. Lotze, Walter Storkus, PhD, and Andrew Amascator,PhD, aimed at introducing antigenic substances to dendritic cells or genetically modifying these cells so that they produce growth factors (cytokines) that would increase their effectiveness against cancer

  • A project led by Olivera Finn, PhD, Pawel Ciborowski, PhD, and Dr. Amoscato, that will focus on the development of dendritic cell-based vaccines for lung cancer

  • A project led by Penelope Morel,PhD, Angus Thomas,PhD, DSc, and Hideaki Tahara, PhD, investigating the importance of dendritic cells in a mouse model of the autoimmune disease, diabetes

  • A project led by Timothy Wright, MD, and Susan McCarthy,PhD, studying how dendritic cells stimulate auto-immunity in scleroderma

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