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T-Cell Immunotherapy for Core Binding Factor Acute Myeloid Leukemia

Marie Bleakley, MD, PhD

Dr. Bleakley is an associate member in the Department of Immunology at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. Her SU2C Innovative Research Grant project, awarded in 2017, is titled “T-Cell Immunotherapy for Core Binding Factor Acute Myeloid Leukemia.”

Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is a frequently fatal blood cancer with a number of different subtypes, many of which have characteristic abnormalities in certain genes and proteins. “Core Binding Factor (CBF)” AML is a type of AML that is named after the gene rearrangements that are characteristic of the subtype. CBF AML is relatively common in younger patients and although it has a better prognosis than some other types of AML, incomplete response to chemotherapy and/or relapse still often occurs, resulting in the death of many patients. The past few years have seen the development of several new and exciting types immunotherapy, including infusions of a category of immune cells called T cells that can be engineered to recognize and kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, most of the T-cell immunotherapies available today are not suitable for AML because the proteins on the surface of cancerous AML cells are similar to the proteins on the surface of normal blood and bone marrow cells, leading to severe side effects when T-cell immunotherapy also targets these normal cells. To address this issue, Dr. Bleakley aims to develop immunotherapy that targets abnormal cancer-specific proteins inside the cell rather than less-specific proteins on the cell surface. This strategy is based on her laboratory’s recent findings that certain parts of the abnormal proteins made in CBF AML can be recognized by T cells of normal, healthy people. The ultimate goal of this study is to harness the discoveries from this project to develop innovative T-cell immunotherapies and therapeutic vaccine candidates for preclinical and, ultimately, clinical testing.