The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) congratulates Carl June, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania, whose groundbreaking research ushered in a new era in cancer immunotherapy, for his election into the U.S. National Academy of Science (U.S. NAS). Dr. June earned this prestigious honor through recognition by his peers for his “distinguished and continuing achievements in original research.”
LLS is a long-time, proud supporter of Dr. June, whose innovative research pioneered the advancement of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy, a first-of-its-kind personalized cellular therapy for cancer that engineers a patient’s own immune cells to fight their cancer. The treatment first received FDA approval in August 2017, and approval for additional indications in 2018.
Dr. June is part of a class of more than 140 new inductees from around the world who have been elected to this elite groups group of nearly 2,900 members around the world. The U.S. NAS is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and—with the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Medicine—provides science, engineering, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.
CAR-T has been a game-changer, maybe even a cure, for many patients with certain types of leukemia and lymphoma who have failed multiple prior therapies. Scores of adults and children who were near death are now in remission, and some remain healthy more than five years after treatment.
LLS has been funding Dr. June and his team for more than two decades, an investment exceeding $20 million, supporting his efforts to harness the power of T cells to fight cancer. And we continue to support his work through a recently-awarded Specialized Center of Research grant to expand the use of CAR-T for use in other types of blood cancers.
Overall, LLS has invested more than $90 million in adoptive cellular therapy research, and $50 million into CAR T-cell therapies in particular. LLS is also supporting the next-generation of CAR-T by supporting Dr. June and many other researchers performing advancing novel approaches to make CAR T-cell therapy even more effective and useful for more patients.
Carl June’s pioneering work in CAR-T is now opening the door to a critical new area of study: finding a treatment for patients with COVID-19. Dr. June, who himself was stricken with the virus for three weeks but now recovered, is applying knowledge he acquired while treating patients with CAR-T to address the dangerous symptoms experienced by many COVID-19 patients. An extreme immune response called cytokine storm syndrome is experienced by most patients treated with CAR-T, and June and his team identified a treatment to mitigate the condition. It turns out COVID-19 patients also experience cytokine storm syndrome, so they are testing the same treatment for these patients.
In February 2020, LLS honored Dr. June at its Seventh Annual Red & White Ball in Philadelphia, hosted by our Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter, presenting him with the prestigious Robert de Villiers Spiral of Life Award in front of 600 attendees. The following video features Dr. June and survivor, Doug Olsen, who discusses the experience of being one of the original CAR-T patients. Click here to view the video.