/////Blass Cancer Vaccine Core Laboratory at UAMS Launches Cellular-level Attack on Cancer Cells
Blass Cancer Vaccine Core Laboratory at UAMS Launches Cellular-level Attack on Cancer Cells 2018-01-05T09:11:37+00:00

APRIL 18, 2005 | The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) reached another milestone April 13 with the dedication of an immunotherapy laboratory to develop cancer-fighting vaccines.


The Elizabeth Weitzenhoffer Blass Cancer Vaccine Core Laboratory in the UAMS Biomedical Research Center will focus on developing vaccines to stimulate the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells. The lab will support collaboration among faculty at the Arkansas Cancer Research Center (ACRC) in the interrelated fields of cancer biology and cancer immunology/vaccinology.


“We don’t think immunotherapy will cure all cancers, but it will play an important role in the development of cures,” said Frits van Rhee, M.D., Ph.D., director of Immunotherapy for the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, and associate professor of medicine for the UAMS College of Medicine. He said the last five years have seen an explosion in the development of immunotherapy.


Many tumors, including multiple myeloma, breast, cervical and ovarian cancers, are difficult to completely eradicate with standard therapies. Immunotherapy boosts a patient’s “T” lymphocyte cells, which are the body’s own natural resistance to the tumor. Immunotherapy may eliminate residual cancer cells, resulting in long-term cures.


UAMS supporters, faculty and staff gathered in the Phillip Leon Rayford Auditorium in the Biomedical Research Center to extend their appreciation to Blass for her generosity and commitment. After a brief presentation on how immunotherapy works, the group enjoyed refreshments and received a tour of the new lab, which is on the third floor of the UAMS Biomedical Research Center.


During her tour, Blass was told by a researcher how grateful they were for the new equipment. The old cell harvester and counter stopped working just as the new equipment came in. The harvester and counter are essential for monitoring cellular responses to vaccines.


“The generous support of Mrs. Elizabeth Blass to establish a Cancer Vaccine Core Laboratory provides equipment essential for monitoring and studying immune responses to candidate tumor antigens, allowing for the development of exciting, novel and potentially curative treatments for a variety of cancers,” van Rhee said.


“This important project has been created from Betsy’s gift and vision and other matching gifts,” said James Suen, M.D., director of the ACRC and professor and chairman of the Department of Otolaryngology in the College of Medicine. “It is an example and model of how private contributions can be leveraged to attract other private and public gifts.” Funding came from Blass and her family foundation with a match from the Arkansas Tobacco Settlement Proceeds Act.


Blass, of Little Rock, is a founding member of the UAMS Foundation Fund Board and the ACRC Foundation Fund Board. She chaired the drive to raise $7 million to build the first phase of the ACRC. Blass also is a founding member of the advisory board of the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging at UAMS.

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