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Immunotherapy Center announced

DMS program blends research, therapy

A new program to coordinate immunology research across a range of diseases and disciplines was announced recently by Stephen P. Spielberg, Dean of Dartmouth Medical School (DMS). The Center for Immunotherapy will bring together scientists, clinicians and researchers from a spectrum of disciplines to study the underlying mechanisms of disease, while producing novel treatments for patients at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC).

"This is an excellent example of the collaboration and integration that allows us to be at the forefront of transforming medical research and the practice of medicine."

- Stephen P. Spielberg

The center will be directed by Randolph Noelle, Professor of Microbiology and Immunology with Lloyd Kasper, Professor of Medicine (Neurology) and Microbiology and Immunology serving as co-director. Senior clinical scientists will be named to coordinate basic science and clinical studies in the areas of autoimmunity, cancer immunotherapy and infectious disease and biodefense. Support for the creation of the Center comes from the Medical School, the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, the Norris Cotton Cancer Center (NCCC), the Immunology Center of Biomedical Research Excellence and the Immunology Program at DMS.

"This is an excellent example of the collaboration and integration that allows us to be at the forefront of transforming medical research and the practice of medicine," Spielberg said. "By providing a center for coordinating the vast array of immunology research that is going on here, we not only give structure and support to our talented physicians and basic scientists, but we stimulate and speed the process of discovery. Ultimately, this means better science and better treatments for our patients."

Immunology is the study of the body's natural defense mechanisms against disease. Over the last decade, a new class of immunotherapy drugs has been developed, revolutionizing treatments of diseases ranging from cancer to inflammatory bowel disease by enhancing or inhibiting natural immune responses. Research into even more novel therapies is continuing at a rapid rate.

Currently at DMS and DHMC, clinicians and researchers in the fields of cancer, neurology, infectious disease, gastroenterology and other disciplines are pursuing clinical trials using various immunotherapeutics. The new center will provide a coordinating mechanism with a common lab and common clinical trial base that will allow physicians and researchers from different disciplines to interact around some of the same challenges and possible therapeutic solutions.

NCCC Director Mark Israel noted that this is exactly the kind of translational research that the National Institutes for Health (NIH) has made the foundation of its "Roadmap" initiative to speed medical discovery. "Increasingly, we recognize that to succeed against cancer and many other diseases, we must shift our focus from treating a specific disease to working with the molecular and cellular processes that underlie those diseases," Israel said.

The center will have three main programmatic areas: cancer, autoimmunity and infectious disease/biodefense. Clinical directors will focus on developing multidisciplinary clinical trials and program projects for potential therapeutics and expanding research activities in their areas. Another central piece will be the continuing education of clinicians at DHMC and in the region about the work of the center and the increased therapeutic options it offers their patients.

By DEBORAH KIMBELL

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Last Updated: 12/17/08