At LIMR we engage in basic, preclinical and clinical cancer research.

Founded in 1927, LIMR was:

  • The first research center in the nation dedicated primarily to the study of cancer
  • The first to study cancer as a problem of inflammation-associated growth
  • The first to discover a genetic defect that contributed to a human cancer, thus launching the modern era of molecular genetics in oncology research

Basic research

Today, our main focus of research is on disease modifiers that affect inflammation and immunity. Our researchers are world-renowned experts on tumor microenvironments and immune responses—in fact, we are at the forefront of the immunotherapy revolution.

One disease modifier of emerging importance that we pioneered is the indoleamine 2,3 dioxygenase (IDO) pathway, which modifies inflammatory processes not only in cancer, but also in autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease and other disorders. Our researchers were among those who uncovered in recent years that a particular IDO enzyme—IDO1—drives about half of all human cancers by shielding the growing tumor from the body’s natural immune attackers. Our scientists began searching more than 10 years ago for drug-like compounds that would suppress the IDO1 enzyme as a strategy to restore the immune system’s attack of cancer cells.

Their work led to the discovery of the first IDO1 inhibitors and the demonstration in preclinical studies of their ability to greatly empower the efficacy of many types of cancer therapy. Their studies also showed how animals lacking the IDO1 gene were resistant to the development and progression of induced cancers.

Building upon this foundation, several companies are now testing these and other IDO1-inhibitory drugs in cancer clinical trials to determine their effectiveness in treating melanomas, lung, breast and other cancers—and early results are promising.

We also made significant breakthroughs in nanotherapy, technology that carries a cancer therapeutic through a patient’s vast expanse of the blood stream, and then—in pinpoint fashion —delivers the drug to the precise tumor location, bypassing and leaving intact healthy cells along the route.

Clinical research

We also conduct research in clinical oncology, and in fact our Center for Clinical Cancer Research (CCCR) has been named a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), one of only 34 community sites in the United States. NCORP provides patients with access to NCI-sponsored cancer clinical trials studying screening, prevention, and symptom management for the oncology patient. Main Line Health NCORP is currently led by principal investigator Albert DeNittis, MD.

The many advantages of the NCI-sponsored designation means patients and participants have access to state-of-the-art clinical trials and new cancer treatments before they become available to the general public, allowing patients to be more active in their health care.

CCCR is part of LIMR’s Clinical Research Center, which is led by Paul Gilman, MD, system chief, Division of Hematology/Oncology, and medical director of the Lankenau Medical Center Cancer Center. Dr. Gilman and his group oversee all cancer research trials. These include novel trials of experimental therapeutics in oncology; drug development in partnership with pharmaceutical companies; and investigator-initiated trials that relate to methods, tests and drugs developed at LIMR. George Prendergast, PhD, president and CEO of LIMR, and the Havens Chair for Biomedical Research, is a co-director with Dr. Gilman of the LIMR Program in Cancer Research.

Renowned Lankenau Medical Center oncology clinicians Ned Carp, MD and Patrick Ross, MD are affiliated clinical faculty members at LIMR, working closely with LIMR investigators to advance cancer research. Indeed, the synergy between LIMR’s laboratory programs and Main Line Health’s clinical research activities serves as a translational conduit enabling the rapid movement of research findings into clinical investigations.

Browse cancer clinical trials