UF hematology and oncology fellow receives grant to study novel immunotherapy treatment

Leighton Elliott, M.D., chief UF hematology and oncology fellow, has received a 2023 Kate Amato Foundation Grant Award for Innovative Pediatric Cancer Research. 

A headshot of Leighton Elliott
Leighton Elliott, M.D.

Elliott, who is part of the UF Pediatric Cancer Immunotherapy Initiative, will use the funds to investigate how RNA nanoparticle vaccines can be used to treat alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. These vaccines are a type of immunotherapy treatment that selectively target the cancer and teach the body’s own immune system to fight it. 

“I am ecstatic to partner with the Kate Amato Foundation for my first grant supporting our work to cure childhood cancers, particularly rhabdomyosarcoma, a devastating cancer that is difficult to treat,” Elliott said.  

The Kate Amato Foundation is a nonprofit that works to find safer, smarter and more effective treatments for children with cancer. It is named for Kate Amato, who was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma at 9 years old and died after 2 ½ years of treatment. 

“Kate’s legacy is already making a huge impact and we are poised to expand that impact to curing the disease that afflicted her,” Elliott said. “This grant will help to cover the cost of the mice we need to study immune responses to our novel cancer treatment vaccine. We believe this treatment will revolutionize cancer therapy and we are grateful to the foundation for believing in us.”

NCI Cancer Center badge