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GastroIntestinal Research Foundation to Fund Personalized Vaccine, Immunotherapy Research

NEW YORK – The GastroIntestinal Research Foundation (GIRF) on Wednesday announced an initiative to develop immunotherapies and personalized vaccines for GI cancers.

The initiative, dubbed CA CURE, will support research projects that, according to GIRF, might otherwise struggle to attract funding due to their experimental or early-stage nature. The effort is supported by multimillion-dollar donations from private donors, though GIRF did not specify the amount of funding it has received.

The foundation has backed three projects under CA CURE so far. The first is a research effort, led by Elicio Therapeutics, to develop two therapeutic cancer vaccines, ELI-007 and ELI-008, targeting the BRAF mutation and p53 hotspot mutations, respectively. The vaccines use Elicio's lymph node-targeting Amphiphile (AMP) platform, designed to "educate" T cells to recognize the antigens and target the cancer cells that express them.

The second project, conducted by Rarecyte, involves biomarker testing to improve understanding of the characteristics of circulating tumor cells at the protein and gene level. The researchers will assess samples collected from patients enrolled in clinical trials and evaluate the role of CTCs in GI cancer metastasis and prognosis.

Finally, the third project to receive funding so far involves using spatial imaging technology to analyze colorectal cancer cells and normal colon tissues. The research, led by Christopher Mason at Weill Cornell Medicine, includes assessing these tissues at both their RNA and protein levels using spatial imaging technologies like NanoString Technologies' GeoMx and CosMx. The aim is to shed light on colorectal cancer heterogeneity, improve NanoString data analysis, and ideally, inform future therapeutic development.