Blass Cancer Vaccine Core Laboratory Dedicated at UAMS

By todd

LITTLE ROCK – A new laboratory at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) will focus on developing vaccines to stimulate the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells.


The Elizabeth Weitzenhoffer Blass Cancer Vaccine Core Laboratory in the UAMS Biomedical Research Center was dedicated today. The lab will support collaboration among faculty at the Arkansas Cancer Research Center (ACRC) in interrelated fields of cancer biology and cancer immunology/vaccinology. The new lab contains equipment essential for the development of cutting-edge therapies for cancer.


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


“The last five years has seen an explosion in the development of vaccine therapy,” 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.


“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. “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 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.


UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with five colleges, a graduate school, a medical center, five centers of excellence and a statewide network of regional centers. UAMS has more than 2,200 students and 660 residents and is the state’s largest public employer with almost 9,000 employees. UAMS and its affiliates have an economic impact in Arkansas of $4.1 billion a year.


UAMS centers of excellence are the Arkansas Cancer Research Center, Harvey and Bernice Jones Eye Institute, Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging, Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy and Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute.