La Jolla Institute/UC San Diego team wins grant for immunotherapy cancer study


Stephen Schoenberger, Ph.D., a professor at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology, and Ezra Cohen, M.D., a professor of medicine at the UC San Diego School of Medicine Moores Cancer Center, have been awarded a Clinic and Laboratory Integration Program (CLIP) Grant by the Cancer Research Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to furthering the development of effective immune system-based cancer therapies. Schoenberger and Cohen’s immunotherapy research is being conducted through a program initiated by a gift from Rancho Santa Fe residents Fernanda and Ralph Whitworth.

“The results of these studies will provide new insights and opportunities for the treatment of head and neck cancer and bring the possibility of adaptive cancer immunotherapy and personalized cancer vaccines a step closer to clinical reality,” said Cohen, associate director for translational science at the Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health and an internationally recognized expert for novel cancer therapies.

Cancer immunotherapy stimulates the body’s immune system to help fight the cancer instead of directly targeting the tumors. CLIP grants, which are specifically designed to bridge the gap between the laboratory and clinical efforts, support clinically relevant research projects aimed at bringing immune-based therapies to patients sooner.

Schoenberger and Cohen will use the two-year, $200,000 grant to study whether the immune system of patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma contains immune cells capable of launching an immune system attack directed at tumor cells and how to best increase their numbers and efficiency.

RSF benefactors Fernanda and Ralph Whitworth initiated this discovery-based cancer immunotherapy program at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center after Ralph Whitworth’s cancer diagnosis. The Whitworths have founded a public charity, Immunotherapy Foundation, that will continue to support this program and others like it. The charity is dedicated to supporting immunotherapy research for HPV-related head and neck cancer.

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