The international NexTGen team

NexTGen team assembles to delve into progress on CAR T-cell therapies

The international NexTGen team assembled at the Children’s National Research & Innovation Campus for their annual meeting to share progress made in their first full year of work on the $25-million Cancer Grand Challenge, focused on creating a CAR T-cell therapy for pediatric solid tumors.

“It was invigorating to bring the whole team together from our eight institutions in the U.S., U.K. and France, as we uncover opportunities in our research and share the headway that we have made,” said Catherine Bollard, M.D., M.B.Ch.B., director of the Center for Cancer and Immunology Research and interim chief academic officer at Children’s National Hospital. “Breakthroughs happen when Team Science collaborates, and that is exactly what is happening here with the NexTGen team.”

Why we’re excited

Over the course of two days, more than 85 team members met to discuss the six work packages that are coming together, with the ambitious goal of making CAR T-cell therapies the standard of care for solid tumors within the next decade:

  • Discovery of new targets
  • The tumor microenvironment
  • Component engineering
  • Integration and modeling
  • Clinical studies
  • Data integration

Each work package includes a patient advocate – individuals with a personal connection to cancer as a family member or survivor – who offers their invaluable perspectives on the research and treatment process. Many attended the meeting, sitting alongside the oncologists, immunologists, mathematicians, molecular biologists and other leading experts.

The big picture

The Cancer Grand Challenges are funded by grants from the National Cancer Institute, Cancer Research U.K. and the Mark Foundation for Cancer Research. Their goal is to drive progress against cancer by empowering global leaders in the research community to take on tough challenges and think differently.

“They call it a ‘grand challenge’ for a reason,” Dr. Bollard said. “It’s going to take the effort and expertise of all these individuals to make a new therapy a reality. I have confidence that we can do it.”