Baylor Research Institute To Collaborate With Mount Sinai School Of Medicine To Develop Therapeutic Cancer Vaccines

Researchers to Investigate Ways to Better Diagnose Autoimmune Disorders

Officials with Baylor Research Institute and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine announced today that the institutions are collaborating to develop therapeutic cancer vaccines for patients with lymphoma and myeloma, both cancers that affect the immune system. Additionally, the researchers will investigate ways to better diagnose autoimmune disorders such as arthritis and lupus.

"The common link between these conditions is the immune system. Both of our organizations have a unique focus in immunology research so this collaboration is a natural fit," explains Michael Ramsay, M.D., President, Baylor Research Institute. "With Baylor's advanced laboratory capabilities and Mount Sinai's clinical innovation and expertise, we will work together to bring this research from the laboratory bench to the bedside of the patients who could potentially benefit from it."

"This partnership is a significant step in advancing translational medicine and will allow us to also generate more targeted treatments for certain types of cancers and autoimmune disorders," says John H. Morrison, Ph.D., Dean of Basic Sciences and the Graduate School of Biological Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. "Baylor Research Institute has a laboratory that is certified as a Good Manufacturing Practices facility, which means it meets the appropriate standards to create vaccines and treatments for people. Our hope is that by working with Baylor, we can move Mount Sinai's research innovations into clinical practice more quickly."

Specifically working on this project is the Baylor Institute for Immunology Research (BIIR), the immunology component of the Baylor Research Institute, under the direction of Jacques Banchereau, Ph.D., an internationally renowned immunologist. In addition to Dr. Banchereau, three other BIIR scientists are involved in this program, Damien Chaussabel, Ph.D., Assistant Investigator; Anna Karolina Palucka, M.D., Ph.D., Investigator; and Virginia Pascual, M.D., Investigator. Researchers from Mount Sinai's new Immunology Institute, which is directed by Lloyd Mayer, M.D., Professor of Medicine and Chief of the Division of Clinical Immunology and Gastroenterology, and Sergio Lira, M.D., Ph.D., a Professor of Medicine, include Miriam Merad, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Medical Oncology) and Luis M. Isola, M.D., Associate Professor of Medicine (Hematology and Medical Oncology).

"Both institutions have important functions in this relationship," explains Dr. Lira. "While Baylor works on vaccine development, Mount Sinai is identifying the patients who stand to benefit from these medical advances, and will then work to move approved treatments into standard practice."

Unlike traditional vaccines used to prevent diseases, the therapeutic vaccines being created by Baylor and Mount Sinai will be designed as personalized cancer treatments using cells from the patient's own immune system. To develop the vaccines, Baylor researchers will cultivate dendritic cells, a class of white blood cells that initiate and control the body's overall immune response against foreign invaders, and manipulate them to attack the cancer. BIIR has made significant advances in the study of dendritic cells and is currently applying this technique to develop and test vaccines for other diseases such as melanoma, breast cancer and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

The Baylor and Mount Sinai teams will also analyze gene patterns in patients with autoimmune disorders in hopes of finding ways to better diagnose these debilitating and chronic illnesses.

"We would like to create blueprints of what certain autoimmune diseases look like genetically so that we can better diagnose and treat them," says Dr. Lira.

Using a small amount of blood from a patient, Baylor researchers will use microarray technology to scan 43,000 different genes to analyze their activity. This activity is shown as bars of changing color. Baylor scientists have identified unique color patterns or "signatures" in this activity that correspond to specific disease processes. By screening patients through this technology, flare-ups of arthritis or lupus may be identified before any clinical symptoms have occurred.

"For example, there are many different types of arthritis and this technology will allow us to more precisely identify and diagnose which type a patient has either before or after symptoms have developed. This information will be beneficial in determining appropriate treatments," explains Dr. Banchereau. "We also will be able to predict when patients with lupus will experience symptom flares."

Mount Sinai Press Office

Ashley Howland
Baylor Health Care System

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