Penn and Big Pharma Team Up to Try to Beat the Hell Out of Cancer

Pharmaceutical giant Novartis has pledged $20 million to help Penn build the Center for Advanced Cellular Therapies where university scientists will look to compound the success of and experimental treatment that teaches a person’s cells to kill cancer.

The treatment uses a disabled form of the HIV-1 virus to carry cancer-fighting genes into the patients’ T-cells, a type of white blood cell that fights viruses and tumors. Although the study involved patients with leukemia, researchers hope to apply the approach to treat patients with a variety of cancers. Other trials are under way for lymphoma, mesothelioma, myeloma and neuroblastoma.

Novartis will have an exclusive, worldwide license for the new technology while Penn receives royalty payments, but the exact parameters of the deal’s financials have not been announced. The agreement comes after the treatments brought about significant results—including complete remission in two cases—in some patients diagnosed with advanced chronic lymphocytic leukemia. [New York Times]