Providence cancer research laboratory receives major grants

December 06, 2012
Research scientist Keith Bahjat, Ph.D., recently received two grants supporting work on new immunotherapy approaches to treating cancer. Dr. Bahjat is chief of the laboratory of immunologic monitoring at the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute at Providence Cancer Center.

Susan G. Komen for the Cure awarded Dr. Bahjat a three-year, $450,000 Career Catalyst Research Scholar grant. The award funds Dr. Bahjat's work on a vaccine that would prime the immune system to attack cancer cells with mutations causing the HER-2 gene to become overactive. “HER-2 positive” cancers represent about a fifth of breast cancer cases. The goal of the research is to develop and test a safe vaccine that will help prevent recurrences in breast cancer patients with HER-2 positive tumors, after surgery or other treatments.

The U.S. Department of Defense, through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, has awarded Dr. Bahjat a two-year, $296,000 Discovery Award. It will support the development of potential new immunological approaches to cancer treatment. Dr. Bahjat's lab will investigate how the protein SOCS-1 interferes with the body’s immune response to cancer vaccines, and how vaccines may be modified to avoid that interference. If successful, the studies will lead to improved methods of delivering cancer vaccines to treat a wide range of cancers.