Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Secures Grants & Pursues T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Secures Grants & Pursues T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey received over $2 million in grants recently to study potential treatment targets for a rare and aggressive blood cancer called T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL).

The recent grant awards were reported by Rutgers Cancer Institute. TrialSite News breaks down the information in a brief question and answer format.

What is T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (T-ALL)?

This disease is a type of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that impact both children and adults. Most forms of ALL stem from early development of B-cells in the immune system. T-ALL develops from early formation of T-cells, which also play an important role in the body’s natural defenses.

This type of leukemia can be aggressive and progress quickly. It affects the lymphoid-cell-producing stem cells, in particular, the white blood cell called T lymphocytes as opposed to ALL which commonly affects B lymphocytes.

A lymphoid stem cell becomes a lymphoblast cell and the one of three types of lymphocytes (white blood cells)

  • B lymphocytes that make antibodies to help fight infection
  • T lymphocytes that help B lymphocytes make the antibodies that help fight infection
  • Natural killer cells that attack cancer cells and viruses

Cure rates have improved in recent years due to novel advances in treatments. But there is a significant percent of patients may have disease recurrence, as reported in the New England Medical Journal. 

In relapse cases, current therapies are not effective prompting the need for new treatment options.

What will Rutgers study?

This disease is mainly caused by activating mutations in a gene called NOTCH1. Previous research by principal investigator Daniel Herranz Benito suggests that inhibition of NOTCH1 has extreme metabolic consequences in leukemic cells. Hence, some of this grant will help support the examination of the role of metabolic master regulator, known as Sirt1, that affects a number of cellular processes. By utilizing advanced leukemia mouse models in preclinical work, Herranz and the Rutgers team seek to analyze the mechanisms by which Sirt1 promotes resistance to NOTCH1 and its ability to serve as a treatment target for T-ALL.

Other Complementary Research

In a complementary project which stems from Herranz’s original discovery of glutaminolysis as a critical metabolic pathway for leukemia survival, the Herranz lab will explore the mechanisms of resistance to glutaminase loss, dissect the impact of glutaminolysis in leukemic stem cells, and identify synthetic lethal interactions with glutaminase inhibition that might result in improved treatment options for T-ALL patients.

Clinical Investigator Comment

Daniel Herranz Benito noted “with some 20% of pediatric T-ALL patients and up to 50% of adult patients with the disease suffering relapse, there is a great need to discover novel therapeutic targets to more effectively treat this population.”


The following contributed to these grants to Rutgers Cancer Institute:

  • National Cancer Institute (NCI)
  • Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research
  • Children’s Leukemia Research Association
  • Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation

Lead Research/Investigator

investigator Daniel Herranz Benito 

Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

As New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute, along with its partner, RWJBarnabas Health, offers the most advanced cancer treatment options, including bone marrow transplantation, proton therapy, CAR T-cell therapy and complex robotic surgery.

Along with clinical trials and novel therapeutics, such as precision medicine and immunotherapy (many of which are not widely available), patients have access to these cutting-edge therapies at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey at University Hospital in Newark as well as through RWJBarnabus Health facilities. For information about their clinical trials organization, visit their website.