The has announced a $4 million gift from Alice Lehman in support of immunotherapy research at the .
The gift will support UNC Lineberger's recently launched cellular immunotherapy research program, initial results from which have shown success. Cellular immunotherapy involves extracting disease-fighting immune cells, called T-cells, from the patient's blood and genetically engineering them to recognize and destroy cancer cells. Since the disease-fighting cells originate in the patient, they are less likely to be rejected, the treatment's major advantage. While current clinical trials at UNC Lineberger target Hodgkin's lymphoma and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, plans for future trials include acute leukemia, multiple myeloma, and certain brain cancers.
"Over the past ten years, I have lost three close family members to cancer," said Lehman, a retired executive vice president and director of investor relations at Wachovia Corp., who lost her husband to colon cancer. "My journey to try to find a cure for my husband, my sister, and my father convinced me that the emerging use of cellular immunotherapy was the only hope for those with metastatic cancer. I was so excited when I learned that UNC Lineberger was on the cutting edge of this emerging technology and that they were planning clinical trials to combat many types of cancers."
"We've made progress over the years in treating some types of cancer, but many others remain virtually untreatable and have been for decades," said UNC Lineberger director Norman E. Sharpless. "Cellular immunotherapies hold tremendous promise to change the landscape of cancer care and the trajectory of people's lives. We're very grateful to Alice for helping us fulfill that promise."