MPN AA Fellowship: Engineering and Pre-Clinical Validation of CALR+ directed CAR-T cells

Dr Chloe Thompson-Peach (R) accepting the cheque from the MPN AA’s Jolanda Visser

MPN AA is thrilled to announce the grant of $30,000 for an MPN Alliance Australia Fellowship titled Engineering and Pre-Clinical Validation of CALR+ directed CAR-T cells.  The grant has been made to an early career researcher from the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) and the University of Adelaide, Dr Chloe Thompson-Peach. Chloe has previously been part of the team under Dr Daniel Thomas researching MPNs in Adelaide at SAHMRI (see separate story).  The fellowship will last for a year, and we will update you during that time.

The grant has been made possible by a generous donation of funds from a Sydney MPN patient, Sarah Gardner, following her recent fund raiser.
We are extremely grateful to Sarah for making the Fellowship grant possible and to the Leukaemia Foundation for facilitating provision of the grant. For Chloe, it enables her to pursue her research passion which has the potential to improve lives of MPN patients into the future.

Sarah Gardner. Sarah’s fund raising efforts have made this MPN Fellowship possible

Research aims for the project – Dr Chloe Thompson-Peach

Myelofibrosis is an insidious condition of the bone marrow, which disrupts the normal production of blood cells. It is characterised by painful inflammation, low blood counts and fibrous tissue building up in the bone marrow. In some patients, myelofibrosis can also develop into acute leukaemia over time. The lack of effective therapeutic options for these cancers has led us to the development of a new immune treatment for these individuals. We have developed a novel immune treatment, a biological therapy, that is a monoclonal antibody directed against the mutant CALR gene, which the second most common cause of myelofibrosis or essential thrombocythemia. We have shown this to be effective in cell lines and patient cells harbouring pathogenic CALR mutations in the laboratory. Additionally, our treatment has also been shown to have no effect on cell lines and primary cells that do not carry mutations within the CALR gene, suggesting it is truly selective, which means it will not have side effects.

In this fellowship, I propose to make and test a specific “CAR” T cell for these patients, a chimeric antigen receptor T cell, using the knowledge we have gained from our antibody therapy. CAR T cells involves removing the good white cells from a patient’s blood and then inserting the CAR gene into these T cells in the lab. These cells are then reprogrammed to target the mutated CALR protein on the surface of the cancer cells. These cells will initially be tested in mouse models of CALR driven myelofibrosis to determine if the CALR specific CAR T cells are able to seek out and destroy cells carrying the pathogenic CALR mutation. I am hopeful that by combining antibody therapy, interferon therapy and specifically designed CAR T cell we may move towards demonstration of long-term remission or cure in patients with myelofibrosis.

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