City of Hope Secures $9.28M for Phase I CAR T-cell Clinical Trial for Breast Cancer Spreading to Brain

Aug 13, 2019 | Breast Cancer, Cancer, CAR T cell therapy, City of Hope, Immunotherapy, Oncology

Composite image of breast cancer awareness ribbon

City of Hope’s Saul Priceman, PhD and assistant professor in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, and his research team have received a $9.28 million award from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to support a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell phase I clinical trial for the treatment of women with HER2-positive breast cancer that has spread to the brain.


HER2 refers to a protein—human epidermal growth factor receptor-2—which is found on the cell surface of breast cancer cells and drives cancer progression. About 20% of breast cancer patients are HER2-positive, according to the American Cancer Society.

The Study

The clinical trial, led by Jana Portnow, MD City of Hope associate clinical professor in the Department of Medical Oncology & Therapeutics Research, is testing the safety and effectiveness of the CAR T cell therapy for breast cancer patients with brain metastases who are not effectively being controlled with other therapies. It is estimated that nearly half of all women with HER2-positive breast cancer will eventually develop brain metastases.

City of Hope a CAR T Cell Innovator

They are a cell-based type of immunotherapy in which a patient’s T cells are reprogrammed to actively seek out and destroy cancerous cells. For this trial, the patient’s T cells will be isolated from the blood and genetically engineered to express a CAR that allows these immune cells to target and eradicate HER2-positive cancer cells. Patient’s receive CAR T cells directly to the ventricles of their brains, which is an administration route that was first attempted successfully at City of Hope. City of Hope patents covering the HER CAR was licensed to Mustang Bio in 2017.

City of Hope, a recognized leader in CAR T cell therapies, has treated more than 350 patients since its CAR T program launched in the late 1990s. The research center continues to have one of the most comprehensive CAR T cell clinical research programs in the world—it currently has 20 ongoing CAR T clinical trials, and had just initiated trials for patients with solid tumors, including prostate cancer.

Key City of Hope Investigators

Stephen J. Forman, MD, director T Cell Therapeutics Research Laboratory and the Francis & Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation

Christine Brown, Ph.D., deputy director, T Cell Therapeutics Research Laboratory and the Heritage Provider Network Professor in Immunotherapy

Behnam Badie, MD, chief of City of Hope’s Division of Neurosurgery and Heritage Provider Network Professor Gene Therapy

About City of Hope

City of Hope is an independent biomedical research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a leader in bone marrow transplantation and immunotherapy such as CAR T cell therapy. City of Hope’s translational research and personalized treatment protocols advance care throughout the world. Human synthetic insulin and numerous breakthrough cancer drugs are based on technology developed at the institution. A National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, City of Hope is ranked one of America’s “Best Hospitals” in cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Its main campus is located near Los Angeles, with additional locations throughout Southern California.


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