Comedy vs Cancer Impact

The $1M+ raised by Comedy vs Cancer in 2019 is supporting five MSK physician-researchers dedicated to defeating cancer, through CAR T cell research.

Car T Therapy

CAR T therapy works by removing and engineering a patient’s own T cells to bind to specific receptor targets on cancerous cells. When individuals receive infusions of their modified T cells, the treatment activates a strong immune response to destroy cancer. At MSK, we are improving CAR T for blood cancers, where its success has been strong but limited, and expanding the technique to solid tumor cancers.

2019 Grant Recipients

Prasad S. Adusumilli, MD, FACS

Deputy Chief, Thoracic Service; Co-Director, Mesothelioma Program; Head, Solid Tumors Cell Therapy, Cellular Therapeutics Center

Dr. Adusumilli has demonstrated that CAR T cells can become functionally exhausted when they are used against solid tumors. In a recent Phase I study, he showed a stronger, more durable response to CAR T in some patients with advanced mesothelioma—by introducing a subsequent immunotherapy called a checkpoint inhibitor. Dr. Adusumilli hopes to initiate a new clinical trial that will combine both treatments in a single dose, to make CAR T even more effective and less toxic.

Kevin J. Curran, MD

Pediatric oncologist specializing in Allogeneic and Autologous Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation for Children; Adoptive T Cell Immunotherapy

CAR T can be dangerously toxic—and is expensive. Dr. Curran is meeting these challenges with off-the-shelf CAR T cells that do not rely on manufacturing individual patient samples. His T cells are instead designed to only recognize a common viral signal found in cancerous blood cells. Ten patients have been treated with the therapy, and with encouraging results.

Anthony Daniyan, MD

Medical oncologist specializing in Adult Acute and Chronic Leukemias; Adoptive Cellular Therapy

Fewer than 30 percent of patients diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) live beyond five years—because some AML cancer cells will resist chemotherapy. Dr. Daniyan has helped develop a CAR T cell that targets CD371, a molecule expressed on chemotherapy-resistant cells. The goal: to combine this CAR T treatment with chemotherapy to kill all AML cells, while sparing healthy cells.

Scott James, MD, PhD

Medical oncologist specializing in Stem Cell Transplantation; Leukemia; Multiple Myeloma; Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS); Lymphoma

AML has more variation in cancer targets than acute lymphoblastic leukemia, making it tougher to treat. Dr. James and his team have developed a patent-pending technology to generate multi-target CAR T cells to overcome this variation. They will move forward with producing these powerful CAR T cells, which may potentially eliminate 100 percent of AML cells in every patient.

Eric Smith, MD, PhD

Director of Clinical Translation, Cellular Therapeutics Center

Multiple myeloma is an incurable blood cancer. CAR T therapy that targets a protein, known as BCMA, helps some patients. But patients whose myeloma cells have little to no BCMA may relapse. Dr. Smith helped retool CAR T cells to target a different protein, GPRC5D, which is also prominent in myeloma cells. In laboratory models, it was effective. The next step: a clinical trial.