U of L receives $11.5 million grant to advance cancer research Friday, Sep 18 2020 

By Eli Hughes–

The University of Louisville has received an $11.5 million grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The grant will be used to advance cancer research in immunotherapy by establishing the Center for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy.

“One of the university’s Grand Challenges is to advance the health of all people,” said U of L President Neeli Bendapudi. “Through this center, our cancer researchers will grow the field of immunotherapy, saving the lives of many more patients with cancer in the future.”

U of L Health’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center is already a valued resource for cancer treatment.

The Brown Cancer Center is nationally recognized and boasts the largest cancer trial program in the region. With this grant, U of L Health will be able to establish the Center for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy as a National Institutes of Health-designated Center of Biomedical Research Excellence.

One of the main goals of the grant is to help establish the next generation of cancer researchers. Young researchers will be provided with funding and mentorship and then cycled out once they are able to obtain their own funding. This will allow for a new wave of researchers to receive support from the center.

“It’s my obligation to bring in and encourage more junior investigators to work in this area,” said Dr. Jun Yan, director of the Center for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy. “We can work together and build this center.”

Yan also explained why it’s so important to get the next generation involved with cancer research. “Immunotherapy takes a long winding road to get where we are now. Just to give you one example, one drug that is widely used now in clinics was developed 20-25 years ago. Developing and discovery take a really long path to get where we are now. So you really need generations and generations of scientists to work in this area,” Yan said.

Dr. Paula Bates, an investigator for the Center for Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy, agrees that supporting young researchers is incredibly important. She will works as a mentor for these investigators and helps them with their grant applications.

Bates also doesn’t underestimate the effect that this grant could have on cancer research as a whole.

“The big picture of what this grant is about is figuring out what are the mechanisms that cancer uses to avoid being destroyed by the immune system. So that we can come up with new immunotherapies,” Bates said.

“We are looking to really get answers to those questions. And some of those will be longterm answers, you know if we find a new type of therapy, t might take 5-10 years before it is generally available. But there is the potential in the shorter term to have a real impact. ” According to Bates, some of those shorter-term projects will include research on combinations between existing immunotherapies and other drugs that aren’t normally used for cancer treatment.

The grant is currently set to last for five years but can be extended for two more five-year periods.

Photo Courtesy // University of Louisville

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U of L researchers using computers in schools to help find new drug to fight COVID-19 Wednesday, Apr 15 2020 

By Matthew Keck — 

University of Louisville researchers are using computers from schools across Kentucky to aid their search to find a drug that fights COVID-19. These computers are a part of DataseamGrid, which was developed to support research, education and workforce development in these schools.

Deputy director of basic and translational research at U of L Health – James Graham Brown Cancer Center, John Trent is helping conduct this research. By using virtual screening on the DataseamGrid, Trent and researchers are able to identify drugs that can potentially fight COVID-19.

“We’re applying all of the methods we use for cancer drug discovery to the new COVID-19 proteins that have been dried recently,” said Trent. He said that they have retooled their research to target these new proteins.

Trent and his team began this research in mid-March to help identify drugs and compounds that could help in treating or preventing COVID-19. Up to 80 percent of the computation used for the research comes from the DataseamGrid.

Their first approach in this research is to test 2,000 drugs that are already on the market currently. In addition, they will be testing 9,000 investigational drugs and nutraceuticals that have been tested and may be the most effective against the virus.

“We take a library of small molecules and we see individually on a computer, which one fits into the place where we want to block particular activities,” said Trent.

The molecular part of this research involves screening 37 million molecules to see which ones target the protein in SARS-CoV-2. This testing could help develop a new drug to treat COVID-19, but would have to be approved by the FDA.

“For the immediate approach, we are testing drugs that already are approved by the FDA or have been tested in humans. If we find activity with those drugs, we could get them into patient trials a lot quicker,” Trent said. “However, these drugs obviously were designed for something else and they may not have the same efficacy of a very selective drug.”

They have identified 30 potentially effective drugs that may treat the virus. These drugs are being tested in the U of L Center for Preventive Medicine for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases (CPM).

If any of those drugs are found to be effective at CPM, they will be moved into the next phase of testing.

Photo Courtesy of the University of Louisville 

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“Raise some L” raised some money Thursday, Nov 14 2019 

By Maggie Vancampen — 

The University of Louisville’s annual “Raise some L” fundraiser garnered almost a million dollars in donations Oct. 22. The results were announced Nov. 6.

With 2,986 total gifts and commitments, the official amount raised is $920,160. The top three groups that contributed are the RaiseRed Dance Marathon with $2,500, James Graham Brown Cancer Center with $1,000 and the College of Arts & Sciences with $500. The fundraiser used the hashtag #RaiseSomeL to help spread awareness.

President Neeli Bendapudi said, “We raised nearly three times as much as last year. In 1,798 minutes, we raised nearly one million dollars from over 2,000 donors. This shows a sense of pride about the university and that our support is increasing and that much is a good sign.”

Dean of the School of Medicine Dr. Toni Ganzel committed a total of $10,000 once 75 gifts were committed to the fundraiser. Additionally, Dean of the School of Music Teresa Reed made a personal donation of $5,000 after 50 gifts were recruited to the School of Music.

Speed School of Engineering dean Emmanuel Collins is set to give $10,000 to the area of his choosing once notified the Speed School received 75 gifts by the end of the fundraiser.

The 369 ambassadors raised 624 gifts with an average amount of $80. The top three ambassadors this year will choose which part will receive additional funding. They are Leslie Friesen, Lora Haynes and Brian Buford.

Photo by Anthony Riley / The Louisville Cardinal

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UofL expert touts cancer breakthroughs with immunotherapy Thursday, Jul 18 2019 

Portrait of Dr. Jason Chesney

The director of the University of Louisville’s James Graham Brown Cancer Center has a lofty goal — to make cancer a disease of the past. “I think we are close to that happening,” Dr. Jason Chesney told a packed house at Holsopple Brewing in Lyndon Wednesday night. “If I had said that five or 10 […]