The NCI-sponsored Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant will fund a first-in-humans, phase 1 clinical study with leukemia patients.
Researchers at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, led by Glen Barber, Ph.D., are leveraging a $2 million, NCI-sponsored Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) grant to potentially advance cancer care. The STTR will fund a first-in-humans, phase 1 clinical study to determine if a novel immunotherapy, targeting the STING pathway, is safe and can proceed to more advanced trials.
“We’ve developed a simple and inexpensive way to potentially stimulate the STING pathway and generate a robust anti-tumor immune response,” said Dr. Barber, who is the Eugenia J. Dodson Chair in Cancer Research at Sylvester and professor and chair of the Miller School’s Department of Cell Biology. “We believe this approach has tremendous potential for the future treatment of many different cancers.” As part of the cell’s innate immune response, STING detects DNA in the cytoplasm of cells, which often indicates a bacterial or viral infection, and alerts the immune system to the intruder. STING also plays a major anti-cancer role. For example, DNA damage in tumor cells can lead to extra chromosomal DNA (ecDNA) escaping from the nucleus, which can also activate STING and alert the immune system. This includes phagocyte recruitment to remove infected or damaged cells.
If successful, STING immunotherapy could benefit many cancer patients. Current immunotherapies are extremely expensive ($500K for CAR-T) and not always effective. However, the synthetic, STING-activating DNA is quite inexpensive and could be broadly effective against multiple cancer types.