Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy Foundation (ACGT) has announced that Brent Hanks, MD, PhD, assistant professor of medicine (Medical Oncology), is one of three recipients of its 2016 ACGT Young Investigator Grants. These grants are awarded to help the researchers build upon earlier research and take them to the next level in cancer treatment, setting the stage for possible clinical trials.
A Vaccine for Melanoma Using Immunotherapy
Melanoma has been steadily increasing in recent years and despite improvements in diagnosis and early stage treatment, metastatic cancer patients have less than a 10% prognosis for recovery. Dr. Hanks is studying pathways that block the immune system’s ability to destroy cancers. These fundamental pathways, which are present in many cancers, inhibit potent dendritic cells that would otherwise open the door to an immune system attack.
This research has identified a fatty acid transporter that plays a crucial role in this process and the possibility of a drug intervention that will shut down the barrier to treatment. Based on these findings, and laboratory research, Hanks has proposed to engineer a vaccine that will genetically silence the inhibitor so the body’s natural killer T-cells can do their job. ACGT grant funding will support further testing to confirm the effect of the transporter, with the intent to develop a vaccine treatment primarily for melanoma.
Hanks has dedicated the last decade to research in the fields of tumor immunology and immunotherapy. He served as fellow and resident at Duke University Medical Center, after earning an MD in Medicine and a PhD in Cancer Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas.