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The Wistar Institute Awarded $12.5M Grant for Melanoma Targeted Therapies

By: JNCCN 360 Staff
Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Wistar Institute and collaborating institutions have received a multidisciplinary grant, totaling $12.5 million over 5 years, from the National Institutes of Health to further research on new targeted therapies for melanoma. This research intends to integrate the role of the tumor microenvironment in influencing response to therapy and development of resistance. This funding is an extension of a preexisting grant that has continuously been funded for 10 years and has produced numerous advancements in the field.

The collaboration team is led by Meenhard Herlyn, DVM, DSc, Director of Wistar’s Melanoma Research Center and Professor in the Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program, and Ashani T. Weeraratna, PhD, Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Cancer Biology and the E.V. McCollum Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“Just targeting specific genetic drivers in the tumor cells or specific immune response mechanisms is not effective because the tumor eventually finds ways to bypass the block,” said Dr. Herlyn. “Our team brings together diverse expertise so we can tackle the whole picture from different angles.”

During the previous funding cycle, the team revealed the impact of aging on the tumor microenvironment, defined metabolic mechanisms that influence tumor cell survival and immune cell regulation, and identified several novel molecular targets and potential inhibitors. Researchers are now expanding their studies through four integrated projects that aim to:

1) Target the lipid metabolism in immune cell populations that favor tumor growth as a way to inhibit their function;

2) Block lysosomal pathways that allow melanoma cells to recycle nutrients and survive in stress conditions;

3) Advance development of a molecule that has been proven effective in selectively killing melanoma cells and test it on difficult-to-treat melanoma types;

4) Target mechanisms through which melanoma cells circumvent the activity of MEK inhibitors, to overcome resistance and lack of response to therapy.



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