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Here are the top 5 Moffitt research stories from 2021:

Moffitt employees gather to celebrate receiving NCI designation in 1998.

Moffitt first received NCI designation in 1998.

1. National Cancer Institute designation. Moffitt is the only National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center based in Florida, a designation held by fewer than 3% of cancer centers in the country. This recognizes our leadership in transdisciplinary, state-of-the-art research to develop new and better approaches to preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer. Moffitt has been designated for 20 years and faces renewal every five years. This year, Moffitt received its highest ranking ever and will bring in approximately $4 million a year to support the structure needed to create a collaborative and translational environment for cancer research.

headshot of Dr. Bijal Shah

Dr. Bijal Shah, Medical Oncologist, Malignant Hematology Department

2. FDA approves first CAR T for adults with ALL. Dr. Bijal Shah was instrumental in the FDA approval of TECARTUS, a CAR T-cell therapy. TECARTUS genetically modifies a patient’s own T cells to recognize the leukemia. A receptor is built into the T cell, which helps it see and kill the cancer. In a phase 2 trial, there was a 71% complete response to this treatment and over half the patients had true complete remissions.

3. COVID-19 vaccine study in cancer patients. Moffitt launched a study following patients before and after their first and second doses of the Moderna vaccine to better understand the effects on cancer patients. Dr. Jeffery Lancet presented a portion of the data during the 2021 American Society of Hematology annual meeting. The data focuses on how blood cancer patients with myeloid malignancies, such as acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes, responded to COVID vaccination. Results showed that antibody titers dramatically increased after the second vaccine dose, indicating a third dose could make a big impact for patients who didn’t respond as well to the initial doses. Moffitt has launched a companion study to look at the impact of a third dose in cancer patients.

4. FDA approves CAR T for relapsed multiple myeloma. Dr. Melissa Alsina led a phase 2 international trial to study a CAR T-cell immunotherapy that targets certain B cells in multiple myeloma. The trial studied the efficacy and safety of the CAR T therapy. The hope is that eventually this treatment will be approved to be used early on in the course of the disease and that further research can improve on the results that led to this product’s FDA approval.

5. Moffitt educates researchers around the world. Moffitt is collaborating with the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana, to help train the next generation of African cancer researchers. Dr. Kosj Yamoah and Dr. Anna Giuliano want to develop a sustainable cancer research program that the hospital can continue to enhance.

image of exterior of Korle-Bu teaching hospital

Moffitt is working with Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital in Accra, Ghana, to develop a cancer research training program to help develop the next generation of African cancer researchers.