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UCLA builds on history of success developing novel immunotherapies to treat cancer



UCLA CTSI News Archive


Dr. Linda Liau and Robert Prins (pictured above) are part of a collaboration of researchers studying the effects of immunotherapies on brain tumors.

This month, UCLA shared notable achievements that have contributed to the development of novel immunotherapies to treat cancer.

Those successes include:

  • Early leaders, such as Dr. Antoni Ribas, who led and co-developed the 2014 approval of pembrolizumab (Keytruda) for metastatic melanoma.
  • Led by Edward Garon, a UCLA team began to evaluate pembrolizumab to treat other cancers. In 2014, a study was launched on the use of the drug for patients with lung cancer. UCLA researchers, led by Zev Wainberg, also are evaluating pembrolizumab for use in gastric cancers. 
  • Dr. Linda Liau and Robert Prins are part of a collaboration of researchers studying the effects of immunotherapies on brain tumors. They are now studying a new combination protocol, developed at UCLA, that uses checkpoint blockade in conjunction with a personalized dendritic cell vaccine.
  • With the help of a preclinical study, led by Roger Lo, the latest research at UCLA suggests that sequential-combinatorial regimens can make treatment more effective for people with many types of aggressive and resistant cancers.
  • One of the first CAR T-cell therapies, axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta), was approved in 2017 to treat adults with relapsed or refractory diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Arie Belldegrun, was instrumental in commercially developing Yescarta. As founder and CEO of Kite Pharma, Belldegrun conducted trials that led to the drug’s approval. UCLA Health was among the few hospitals to offer this therapy to patients. UCLA has since participated in clinical trials that have led to approval of additional CAR T-cell therapies, including brexucabtagene autoleucel (Tecartus), a CD19-directed therapy approved in 2020 to treat relapsed or refractory mantle cell lymphoma.
  • Yvonne Chen, began to develop a therapy that targets both CD19 and CD20 that are expressed on B-cell lymphoma and leukemia. In 2019, based on Chen’s research, UCLA launched a pioneering, phase-1 trial, offered exclusively at UCLA, to study the efficacy and safety of CD19/CD20.

 See the full UCLA press release.

Dr. Robert Prins is the David Geffen School of Medicine I3T Theme leader and a collaborating partner with the CTSI. See the press release on his CTSI-supported research.