Dr. Eric Chen, a senior fellow in Dr. Oliver Press' Clinical Research Division laboratory, is the recipient of a three-year $225,000 Lymphoma Research Foundation Clinical Investigator Award. He is one of only three investigators nationwide selected for the endowment.
Chen's research uses a unique gene-therapy approach to treat lymphoma. Lymphoma is a cancer which affects the lymphatic system, the network of vessels and nodes that carry infection-fighting white blood cells throughout the body. Chen is studying how to treat patients with follicular lymphoma (FL) — an incurable cancer — by modifying immune-system cells so they can better recognize and attack lymphoma cells. Currently, Chen is testing this technology in a phase I trial in patients with relapsed FL.
Follicular lymphoma is the second most common subtype of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. While it might be potentially cured with a stem-cell transplant, most FL patients are elderly and would be poor candidates for transplantation. Early results in the gene-therapy trial show promise with few side effects.
The Lymphoma Research Foundation, formed in 2001, is the nation's largest lymphoma-focused voluntary health organization. The foundation funds lymphoma research and educates the public about the disease.
Chen's award is intended to help him facilitate clinical trials on lymphoma so patients can more quickly access new and promising treatments.