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Savoldo Receives Grant for Immunotherapy Research from The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Published Online:3:22 PM, Fri December 1, 2017

Barbara Savoldo, MD, PhD
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) has awarded Barbara Savoldo, MD, PhD, with a $600,000, 3-year grant in support of her promising research into a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell treatment with a “safety switch” that could alleviate potential side effects for patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) being treated with the immunotherapy.

Savoldo is currently an assistant director of the Immunotherapy Program at the University of North Caroline (UNC) Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, and professor of pediatrics, Division of Hematology/Oncology, at the UNC School of Medicine. She previously worked as an associate professor of pediatrics and cell and gene therapy at Baylor College of Medicine.

“It is truly an honor to receive this award,” Savoldo said in a statement. “It will support research into a new approach to mitigate side effects of immunotherapy treatments for patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Our goal is to adapt an ‘off switch’ for chimeric antigen T-cell receptor therapies that are a demonstrated game-changer in the treatment of this disease.” If successful, Savoldo and her team could reduce potentially lethal side effects, including cytokine release syndrome, of CAR T-cell therapy for patients with ALL.

The Translational Research Program grant is part of a $40 million investment made by LLS within the past 2 decades in CAR T-cell therapy at multiple institutions. This support has led to the FDA approval of 2 CAR T-cell products earlier this year.

“There is never a good time to get cancer, but it’s a phenomenal time to be fighting it,” Louis J. DeGennaro, PhD, the president and CEO of LLS, said in a statement. “LLS is doing more than any cancer non-profit to advance the next generation of blood cancer treatments and cures, and, in doing so, we are helping patients with other cancers and chronic diseases.”

Savoldo’s recent research helped to lead to the development of protocols for the treatment of Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)–related lymphoma, which affects recipients of solid organ transplants and patients with chronic active EBV infection. She then went on to develop and extend her work on T-cell–based therapy approaches to target non-viral antigens that are overexpressed in cancer cells, such as cancer testis antigens.

She received her medical degree at the University of Parma in Italy. She later completed fellowship in hematology at the University of Parma and a postdoctoral fellowship in translational research at Duke University. She completed her doctorate in clinical scientist training at Baylor College of Medicine, where she later returned to join the faculty.

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