Dr. Jeffrey Miller Awarded $9M NIH/NCI P01 Program Project Grant to Develop Off-The-Shelf NK Cells

MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL — Jeffrey Miller, MD, Deputy Director of the Masonic Cancer Center, and his research team have been awarded a $9M National Institutes of Health (NIH) P01 Program Project Grant grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for his program titled “NK cells, their receptors, and cancer therapy.” The focus of the grant is to target Acute Myeloid Leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and Ovarian Cancer with natural killer (NK) cells.

“Recent high-profile advances have reinvigorated enthusiasm for immunologic and cell-based therapies for cancer,” noted Dr. Miller. “We have formed new strategic partnerships to shift from single donor products, which are expensively designed for a specific patient, to more affordable off-the-shelf approaches. The overall goal is to make universal and cancer-specific NK cells products that can be frozen and thawed for immediate use that are amenable to repeat dosing, much like the schedule for cancer antibodies or chemotherapy. Our overall goal is to develop off-the-shelf NK cell products to be used alone or in combination with immune engagers or other targeted antibodies. The grant funds both clinical trials and basic research and discovery to achieve this goal.”

Dr. Miller collaborates with a team of experts at the Masonic Cancer Center, including researchers from across the University of Minnesota, and such prestigious academic institutions such as University of California Davis, Washington University St. Louis, Stanford University, University of Oslo-Norway, and University College London, along with the National Marrow Donor Program.

“This research addresses some of the most compelling questions in the NK cell field and is positioned to advance the next generation of NK cell immunotherapies to the clinic,” said Dr. Miller. “Collaborating with my colleagues at the Masonic Cancer Center, we will test new approaches to target NK cells against AML and lymphoma and peritoneal delivery of NK cells in women with advanced ovarian cancer. An overarching goal is to 1) give the best NK cells and 2) to add a second targeting signal to better enhance treatment specificity.” 

The review group gave this study an impact score of 10, the best possible score. The NIH defines impact as “the likelihood that your project will exert a powerful influence on its field. Reviewers also usually comment on its relevance to the NIH mission: improving human health through science.”


Frank Cichocki, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation

Martin Felices, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation

Bruce Walcheck, PhD, Professor, Department of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences

Daniel Weisdorf, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation

John E. Wagner, MD, Distinguished McKnight Professor, Department of Pediatrics

Bruce Blazar, MD, Regents Professor, Children’s Cancer Research Fund Land Grant Chair in Pediatric Oncology, Department of Pediatrics

Claudio Brunstein, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation

Veronika Bachanova, MD, PhD Professor of Medicine, Division of Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation

Melissa Geller, MD, MS, Associate Professor and Division Director, Gynecologic Oncology, Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Women's Health (OBGYN)

David McKenna, Jr, MD, Professor and American Red Cross Chair in Transfusion Medicine, Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology

About the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota
The Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, is the Twin Cities’ only Comprehensive Cancer Center, designated ‘Outstanding’ by the National Cancer Institute. As Minnesota’s Cancer Center, our researchers, educators, and clinicians have worked to discover the causes, prevent, detect, and treat cancer and cancer-related diseases for all Minnesotans without disparity. Learn more at