Ronald Levy Lab In the Division of Oncology

Levy Lab Research Areas

illustrationLymphomas are the cancers of the immune system. They represent the uncontrolled growth of a clone of cells which, in each case, are all derived for one original lymphocyte. Therefore we can learn about the immune system by using these tumors as pure examples of different types of normal lymphocytes. And, conversely, we can use our knowledge about the normal immune system, and how it is regulated, to learn how to control the growth of this special type of cancer.

Our laboratory works at this boundry between immunology and cancer biology. We study normal lymphocyte biology and the biology of malignant lymphomas. We work closely with the laboratory of Dr. Shoshana Levy and we are members of the Stanford Graduate Programs in Immunology and Cancer Biology. We develop immune therapies for lymphomas. We pioneered the use of monoclonal antibodies for the treatment of lymphoma. We showed that lymphoma can be cured with monoclonal antibodies directed against the unique antigen binding receptor present on each patient’s tumor (idiotype). We developed the first monoclonal antibody approved by the FDA for the treatment of cancer (Rituxan). We are now developing a vaccine approach for the treatment of lymphoma, which is customized for each patient and based on the unique idiotype expressed by each lymphoma tumor. We are using the new technologies of genetics, genomics and proteomics to understand how lymphomas develop and to predict the outcome of current treatments. We hope to discover new targets for therapy of lymphoma and new therapies that take advantage of these targets.

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We are using the tools of immunology and molecular biology to develop a better understanding of the initiation and progression of the malignant process. Receptor molecules present on the surface of tumor cells transmit signals for regulation of cell growth. These receptors include the immunoglobulin molecule on B cell tumors and the T cell receptor on T cell tumors. Questions the lab is currently addressing include:

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  1. Can a clue to the pathogenesis of lymphoma be derived from a study of their antigen receptors?
     
  2. Can new treatments for lymphoma be developed by targeting critical cell surface receptors with monoclonal antibodies?
     
  3. Can vaccines be developed which can induce an immune response in the host against the receptors on their own tumor?
     
  4. Can gene polymorphisms and gene expression profiles be used to predict the outcome of our current treatments for lymphoma?

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