By Contributing Writer - September 13, 2019
For Dr. Frederick Locke, the $100,000 Miles for Moffitt research award granted in 2014 was instrumental to his work in cell therapies, leading to developments in chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy. A medical oncologist and translational researcher in Moffitt’s Blood and Marrow Transplant and Cellular Immunotherapy Program, Locke, who treats Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia, multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, has acted as a national principal investigator for several pivotal trials of anti-CD19 CARs for lymphoma.
CAR T involves collecting a patient’s immune cells (T cells), genetically engineering those cells to fight cancer, and infusing them back into the patient’s body.
The Miles for Moffitt award allowed Locke to initiate a 10-patient clinical trial utilizing a Moffitt-created vaccine, a form of cellular immunotherapy, against a target called survivin. When survivin is found in myeloma cells, it’s predictive of worse outcomes, resistance to chemotherapy and shorter survival. The hope was the vaccine against survivin could potentially improve the outcome of myeloma patients by administering it in conjunction with an autologous stem cell transplant.
After treating the first two patients, the trial was expanded based on the early results. “We have treated 14 patients on the trial, and we now are finishing the manuscript describing those results,” said Locke.
In 2015, Locke received a five-year National Cancer Institute grant that is allowing continuation of the work. “Getting the NCI grant was built upon doing the trial,” said Locke. “The Miles for Moffitt grant was integral to my success in obtaining federal funding for ongoing research.”
That initial work with the survivin vaccine also helped lay the foundation for Locke to continue research in cellular immunotherapies, and more recently, he has been doing much work with CAR T. “Although the Miles for Moffitt grant was not centered on CAR T, the funding helped to build momentum in order to continue research in cellular immunotherapies,” Locke said.
Additionally, Locke received the National Cancer Institute’s 2016 Cancer Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award in recognition of outstanding contributions to the NCI clinical trials program. The award was based upon work with the survivin vaccine and CAR T.
“I think the Miles for Moffitt event is hugely important to the advancement of cancer research,” said Locke. “It brings together people from Moffitt and the community, including employees, patients, their families, and their social circles, to celebrate our unity and singular focus on the fight against cancer. Importantly, the event raises awareness and the money necessary for the Miles for Moffitt awards to support early research.”
All proceeds fuel research and empower scientists at Moffitt Cancer Center to find a cure. Sign up for Miles for Moffitt today and join us in the fight against cancer on Saturday, Nov. 23.