A man in a UCLA lab smiles into the camera.
Dr. John Lee

Dr. John Lee receives grant from CureSearch for Children’s Cancer

Dr. John Lee, associate professor in residence in the division of hematology/oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, received the Acceleration Initiative Award from CureSearch for Children’s Cancer to help advance the use of chimeric antigen receptor, or CAR, T-cell therapy as a treatment for people with advanced Ewing sarcoma, a rare type of cancer of the bone or soft tissue that mostly affects children and young adults.

CAR T-cell therapy, a form of immunotherapy, uses genetically engineered versions of a patient’s immune cells to target and destroy cancer cells. This type of treatment has transformed the field of cancer, especially for people with hard-to-treat cancers.

The award will help support Lee’s work designing a CAR T-cell to attack a specific protein found on Ewing sarcoma cells called STEAP1, which is crucial for the cancer’s growth. The team will modify these CAR T-cells to produce a protein called interleukin-18, which helps boost the immune response against cancer.

Lee will collaborate on the study with Dr. Arun Singh, assistant professor of medicine at the Geffen School of Medicine, and Dr. Elizabeth Loggers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

“Metastatic Ewing sarcoma is rarely curable and current treatments like surgery, radiation and chemotherapy often don’t work well for advanced cases,” said Lee, a member of the UCLA Health Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Our hope is this treatment can one day lead to better outcomes for kids with this disease by making their immune systems better at fighting the cancer.”

Cancer & Immunotherapy