Local cancer researcher awarded grant for novel research

SAN ANTONIO (Oct 13, 2010) — Bin Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine in hematology and medical oncology at the UT Health Science Center, has been awarded a $450,000 grant from the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

Zhang was informed Tuesday of the grant, given for his project, “Targeting CD73 to Improve Ovarian Cancer Immunotherapy.”

The promise of cancer immunotherapy — using the body’s own immune system to fight cancer — has not translated into clinical success in part because the tumor produces too much of an enzyme, CD73, which makes immunosuppressive nucleosides that block anti-tumor T-cell (white blood cell) activity. In a mouse ovarian cancer model, Dr. Zhang targeted CD73 with monoclonal antibodies and drugs, inhibiting it to improve anti-tumor T-cell function. He showed that tumor-bearing mice can be cured by a combined treatment of CD73 inhibition and T-cell therapy. The $450,000 grant, paid over three years, will support the continuation of this research.

“It’s a highly competitive — and large — research award in a novel area of cancer immunotherapy,” said Tyler Curiel, M.D., M.P.H., an immunologist developing other novel immune therapies for cancer at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center at the UT Health Science Center, where Dr. Zhang works as an independent principal investigator. “We urgently need better ways to treat ovarian cancer, and better means of using immunotherapy to treat all types of cancers. Dr. Zhang’s approach is a positive step in both directions”, Curiel added.

The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit www.ctrc.net

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