Research Projects

Researchers working under vent hoods in a lab

Peripheral (PTCL) and Cutaneous T-Cell Lymphoma (CTCL)

Principal Investigators: Owen A. O’Connor, MD, PhD and Enrica Marchi, MD, PhD

PTCL occurs in fewer than 10,000 U.S. patients per year, and has a relatively low cure rate among lymphomas of approximately 25 percent. No dedicated treatment platform for PTCL has ever been developed. This transdisciplinary project seeks to identify new synergies between treatments, to develop new drugs, and to innovate a new paradigm in the care of patients with the disease. Program research led by Dr. O’Connor has already developed two new drugs, nano-romidepisin and nano-pralexatrate, and the initiative’s first combinatorial nano-therapeutic. Ongoing research focuses on areas including combination of epigenetic therapies with others such as immunotherapy, and on nano-scale drug delivery.

Microscopic view of large granular lymphicyte cells

Large Granular Lymphocyte (LGL) Leukemia

Principal Investigators: Thomas P. Loughran, Jr., MD and David J. Feith, PhD

Dr. Loughran discovered LGL leukemia in the 1980s and has spent his career studying the disease and treating patients from around the world. Existing therapies have a response rate of approximately 50 percent, and many patients participate in months-long clinical trials only to find they have not responded. UVA has already identified biomarkers in patients most responsive to specific therapies. New research focuses on identifying other key biomarkers, and on tailoring treatments to individual patients’ genetics, which could include combined epigenetic and immunotherapy treatments, as well as nano-scale drug delivery. To learn more, visit the Loughran Lab and UVA Health’s LGL Leukemia Program.

Illustration of blood cells

Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL)

Principal Investigators: Michael E. Williams, MD, ScM, FACP and Craig A. Portell, MD

MCL accounts of 3-5 percent of all non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas, with only 3-5,000 patients diagnosed in the U.S. per year. It is aggressive and approximately one-third of patients succumb to the disease within three years despite existing treatments, and most relapse in 3-7 years. UVA researchers are testing addition of the drug  venetoclax to the standard treatment for older patients, working on two novel approaches to treatment: the use of ultrasound and intense sound waves to safely destroy tumors, and the use of nanotechnology to deliver therapies.

UVA Nanostar researcher at work in the lab

NanoMedicine for Orphan Blood Cancers

Principal Investigator: Anuradha Illendula, PhD

Cancer nanomedicine creates “packages” smaller than 200 nanometers – about twice the size of the typical virus – that improve the delivery, toxicity and efficacy of cytotoxic, precision targeted and immunological therapies. Two such technologies developed by UVACCC and UVA’s nanoSTAR initiative have already entered the clinic for enhanced cancer imaging and therapy, including Ceraxa, a nontoxic nanoscale delivery system for ceramide that has demonstrated effectiveness in treatment of orphan blood cancers. Ongoing research focuses on increased production of nano-scale products to support clinical trials and development of next-generation nanotechnology.