A significant €750,000 grant to the development of CAR T cell therapy from the Sigrid Jusélius Foundation

25.3.2021
In a five-year study, Professors Päivi Ojala and Sirpa Leppä from the University of Helsinki are developing a cell therapy for haematological cancers and solid tumours.

In immunotherapy, the cells of the patient’s immune system are activated to attack cancer cells increasingly effectively. CAR T cell therapy, which is based on gene technology, is one of the most promising new cancer therapies, and good results have already been obtained in applying the technique to treating haematological cancers. However, a breakthrough is yet to be made in applying the treatment form to solid tumours.

Professor Päivi Ojala and Professor, Chief Physician Sirpa Leppä have received a sizeable grant of €750,000 from the Sigrid Jusélius Foundation for the further development of CAR T cell therapy. In the five-year research project entitled ‘Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy for haematological and solid cancers: from bench to bedside’, the professors will investigate the potential of cell therapy in treating both haematological cancers and solid tumours, with the goal of making CAR T cell products as effective, targeted and safe as possible.

Aiming to advance Finnish research to the forefront of cell therapy development

The research project, which commences this May, is divided into two phases: in the preclinical phase, Ojala’s and Leppä’s groups will carry out cytological studies and determine the efficacy and safety of therapies in the laboratory using animal models.

The research will be carried out in cooperation with the Finnish Red Cross Blood Service, which will be responsible for producing the CAR T cell products in its cell production facility.

Once the cell therapy product has been proven to be efficacious and safe, the study will proceed to the clinical phase, where patients with advanced cancer that is resistant to other forms of treatment will be enrolled. At the Helsinki University Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center, Professor, Chief Physician Sirpa Leppä is responsible for drawing up the clinical trial protocol and carrying out the trial.

According to Ojala and Leppä, the aim is to advance Finnish research to the forefront of cell therapy development: 

“We wish to significantly boost future personalised medical care and, consequently, improve patients’ quality of life.”