Turning the immune system against cancer

Dan ValleraIn his 40 years at the U, Dan Vallera, Ph.D., pharmacology faculty member and beneficiary of Masonic support, has made it his mission to develop drugs that ease the suffering caused by cancer.

Vallera founded and continues to lead a lab at the U that develops and tests FDA-compliant drugs that engage the immune system in the fight against cancer, including a therapy that successfully treated a colleague’s B-cell lymphoma when nothing else was working.

“This patient had received chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and stem cell transplantation, which all failed,” Vallera says. “Our drug cured her and she lived to see the birth of her first grandchild.”

One of the latest successes for Vallera’s team has been the development of a new immunotherapy that simultaneously enhances the ability of immune cells to kill cancer, while expanding the population of immune cells needed to fight acute myeloid leukemia, a devastating cancer that affects adults. They are in final negotiations with the FDA and hope to launch a clinical trial that tests this drug in people in the coming year.

“The final cure for cancer will not come all at once. It comes in increments with each discovery being greater than the last. Seed support from the Masons and others is extremely important to maintaining good ideas and moving your program forward.”

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