Minnesota cancer researchers net $26 million for stem cell therapies

Two researchers at the University of Minnesota‘s Masonic Cancer Center will receive $26 million in renewed grants from the National Cancer Institute to boost stem cell therapies that treat blood and bone cancers, as well as other disorders.

Dr. Philip McGlave and Dr. Jeffrey Miller want to increase the availability, safety and effectiveness of hematopoietic stem cell transplants and cell therapies to improve treatment and survival for thousand of patients diagnosed each year with leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma and other blood and bone marrow disorders.

McGlave and his research team will get $12.6 million to improve stem cell transplant and cell-based treatments. McGlave is deputy director of the Masonic Cancer Center and director of the University Medical School’s Division of Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation.

Miller will get about $13.3 million to continue his team’s research on characterizing “natural killer cells” or “NK cells” to reduce the rate of relapse of leukemia after stem cell transplants. He is associate director of the Masonic Cancer Center’s Experimental Therapeutics Program and professor of medicine focusing on hematology, oncology and transplantation.

In addition to working with their own research teams, McGlave and Miller also plan to work with blood and marrow stem cell experts at the National Institutes of Health and at more than a dozen cancer research centers nationwide.

Stem cell transplant was pioneered at the University of Minnesota with the world’s first successful donor transplant for malignant lymphoma in 1973, according to the university.

McGlave’s team most recently verified the effectiveness of umbilical cord blood transplants. Meanwhile, Miller’s team found that favorable NK cell receptor genes in unrelated blood and marrow donors protect against relapse of acute myeloid leukemia.

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