UF brain cancer researcher receives NCI grant to study immunotherapy optimization in glioblastoma

A University of Florida brain cancer researcher has received a two-year $392,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute to study how to enhance the effectiveness of immunotherapy to treat glioblastoma. 

Loic Deleyrolle, Ph.D.

Loic Deleyrolle, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Lillian S. Wells Department of Neurosurgery in the UF College of Medicine, will lead the project, which aims to develop a strategy to provide CAR T-cells with a competitive metabolic advantage over tumor cells. CAR T-cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy. 

The team hypothesizes that one reason for the limited effectiveness of CAR T-cell therapy in glioblastoma is fierce competition for nutrients, especially glucose, between tumor cells and the immune system. This imposes metabolic pressure on CAR T-cells, reducing their ability to target cancerous cells. 

The new study will use mouse cells to test a method to enhance the metabolic fitness of CAR T-cells so they can outcompete glioblastoma cells for nutrients like glucose. Glioblastoma is the most aggressive malignant brain tumor in humans. 

“This project will allow the integration of fundamental concepts of tumor and immune metabolism in the design of CAR T-cell treatment,” Deleyrolle said. “The major impact of our study is that if successfully completed, it will confirm that immunometabolism represents a viable target for new cancer therapy and will validate a clinically applicable method to overcome treatment resistance to T-cell therapy in brain tumors.” 

Deleyrolle, a member of the UF Health Cancer Center’s Cancer Therapeutics & Host Response research program, is collaborating on the new project with Cancer Center members Duane Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., associate director for translation and innovation at the Cancer Center, director of the UF Clinical & Translational Science Institute and co-director of the Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy; and Jianping Huang, M.D. Ph.D., associate professor in the department of neurosurgery.

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