Gibbs Foundation grants UofL $1.5 million to expand clinical trials for cancer immunotherapy

Funds will allow UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center to treat additional patients using TILs technology
Gibbs Foundation grants UofL $1.5 million to expand clinical trials for cancer immunotherapy

George Gibbs

More individuals will have access to new treatments for cancer at UofL Health – Brown Cancer Center thanks to a new gift supporting immunotherapy clinical trials.

The Gibbs Foundation Inc. is giving $1.5 million to the University of Louisville over three years to fund additional research staff and faculty time dedicated to clinical trials, increasing capacity for trial participants in the tumor infiltrating lymphocytes program, or TILs.

“We are so very grateful to the Gibbs Foundation for this gift. By allowing the Brown Cancer Center to expand this clinical trial and treat more patients with this innovative therapy, it provides hope for more families who are battling cancer and advances these therapies, potentially benefitting even more cancer patients and families,” said Lori Gonzalez, UofL’s interim president.

In clinical trials at the Brown Cancer Center (BCC), therapy known as tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, or TILs, has been shown to be effective in treating advanced melanoma patients, for whom the median survival is only eight months. TILs treatment involves removing one of a patient’s own tumors, preserving, activating and expanding immune cells from the tumor, then administering these immune cells into the patient. As a result of its success in melanoma patients, BCC is expanding the TILs program to test the therapy for the treatment of other cancers.

TILs patients face a long wait time due to the complex and time-consuming nature of the therapy and demands on clinical research staff. The gift from the Gibbs Foundation will allow UofL to hire additional nurses and coordinators and dedicate more of the oncologists’ research time to support TILs, a complex inpatient procedure. The gift is expected to result in the treatment of at least 25 additional patients.

“The Gibbs Foundation Board of Directors has been dramatically impressed with the success of the Brown Cancer Center’s immunotherapy work conceived and spearheaded by Dr. Jason Chesney.  We look forward to continuing the vision of our founder George Gibbs in helping to facilitate this great effort,” said Ivan J. Schell, Gibbs Foundation board member. “The Gibbs Foundation supports the BCC and its dedicated team of physicians as they gain ground in the search for a cure for all cancers.”  

The Gibbs Foundation, Inc. was established in 2014 by George Gibbs of Louisville who died in January of pancreatic cancer at age 87. The Gibbs Foundation previously supported health research at UofL through gifts of more than $2.5 million to create and expand the lung research program.

Cancer remains one of the most difficult and deadly challenges in health care, killing more than 600,000 people each year in the U.S. and nearly 10 million worldwide. Kentuckians are affected at a higher rate than residents of any other state. BCC serves more than 26,000 cancer patients every year and has the largest early-phase cancer trials program in the region. BCC is a global leader in the clinical testing of new immunotherapies, treatments that activate the body’s immune system to fight cancer and is an early adopter of these treatments.

“My goal is to help make cancer something that people one day study in history classes instead of medical schools, and I truly believe we are getting closer to that day,” said Jason Chesney, chief of the UofL Division of Medical Oncology and Hematology and director of the Brown Cancer Center. “This gift allows us to increase the number of patients and advance this lifesaving technology.”