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CancerRNA Consortium Will Harness RNA Technology to Enhance Immunotherapies

NEW YORK – The Hadassah Cancer Research Institute at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem said Monday that it will lead CancerRNA, a global consortium dedicated to the application of RNA-based therapeutics to cancer immunotherapy.

At a meeting and workshops hosted by HCRI in Jerusalem this month to establish the project's priorities, the consortium agreed to focus first on developing drugs for acute myeloid leukemia and uveal melanoma. Both cancers harbor splicing factor mutations that are typically refractory to immunotherapy. Discoveries in acute myeloid leukemia are expected to be relevant to pediatric patients as well.

Michal Lotem, head of HCRI's Center for Melanoma and Cancer Immunotherapy, and Rotem Karni, chair of biochemistry and molecular biology at Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, will lead the consortium. Through modulation of RNA processing, researchers hope to evoke immune responses in "cold cancers" and boost immune activity by retargeting immune effector cells, modulating RNA splicing of immune receptors, and developing personalized mRNA vaccines.

Leaders of the international consortium come from Belgium, Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain, and participating organizations include universities, research institutes, public agencies, and the drugmakers Merck and Immunyx.