Published on in CHOP News
A leading physician-researcher at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) has received an award from the QED Program of the University City Science Center to help develop an innovative T-cell based treatment for the childhood cancer neuroblastoma.
John M. Maris, MD , one of the country’s leading experts in neuroblastoma, has received this proof-of-concept award to advance his research in biological targets toward clinical treatments for children with a high-risk form of this cancer. In addition to a monetary award, the QED Program has paired Dr. Maris with a business advisor from its own network to collaborate on a plan to obtain commercial funding to bring the new cancer treatment to the market.
CHOP has long had a major research and clinical program focused on neuroblastoma, the most common solid tumor in children, which may take high-risk, difficult-to-treat forms. Dr. Maris is developing a treatment to modify a patient’s own T cells to hunt down and destroy cancer. This cellular immunotherapy approach has recently produced unprecedented success, including durable remissions, in children and young adults with forms of leukemia. CHOP, the University of Pennsylvania and Novartis have collaborated in this T-cell immunotherapy to achieve the first-ever FDA-approved gene therapy in the United States.
Dr. Maris aims to adapt this approach to treat neuroblastoma, having identified highly specific biological targets in neuroblastoma tumors and engineering T cells to attack those targets. He acknowledged the work of graduate student Mark Yarmarkovich, who generated data required to compete for the award. Maris added, “We very much look forward to continuing our work with the Science Center and our QED Business Advisor to realize our dream of curing the currently incurable advanced cancers.”
The University City Science Center launched the QED program in 2009 to support novel academic research-based technologies with market potential, to bridge the gap between basic research and product commercialization. The current round of awards, selected after a competitive process, supports researchers from the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and the University of Delaware, in addition to Dr. Maris.