Helen Heslop is a physician-scientist engaged in translational research focusing on adoptive immunotherapy with gene-modified effector cells, to improve hemopoietic stem cell transplantation and cancer therapy. A key step in this strategy has been the translation of laboratory findings to Phase I and II clinical trials, as exemplified by studies of Epstein Barr virus-induced lymphoproliferative disease (EBV-LPD), a fatal complication in about 15% of recipients of unrelated or mismatched family member bone marrow transplants in the early 1990s.
In collaboration with Dr. Cliona Rooney, she developed methods for early diagnosis of this disease and procedures for generating cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) from bone marrow donors. These studies were the first to demonstrate that antigen-specific cytotoxic T cells could eradicate an established malignancy and because the cells were genetically marked, we obtained definitive evidence of cell expansion, trafficking to tumor sites and decade-long persistence. Subsequent protocols have extended this approach to Hodgkin's Disease, NHL and nasopharyngeal cancer.
She has an additional focus on reconstituting antiviral immunity post-transplant in collaboration with Drs. Rooney, Leen and Bollard and is currently leading an NHLBI-funded multicenter trial of allogeneic multi virus-specific T cells. She, therefore, has extensive experience in developing and conducting transplant studies and cell and gene therapy studies under IND and has also obtained orphan drug designation for my initial study.