High-risk neuroblastoma in children has a grim outlook. Dr. Jonus is fighting to change that.

Dr. Hunter Jonus
Dr. Hunter Jonus

Neuroblastoma is the most common extracranial solid tumor of childhood arising within the developing nervous system. Approximately half of neuroblastoma patients are diagnosed with high-risk disease, which is especially aggressive with a 50% survival rate. If a child’s high-risk neuroblastoma relapses after receiving chemotherapy, overall survival plummets below 20%. The few children that do survive often suffer significant long-term treatment related toxicities and are at a higher risk for secondary malignancies. 

Dr. Hunter Jonus, PhD, a CureSearch Young Investigator at Emory University’s Department of Pediatrics, pioneers cellular immunotherapy for high-risk neuroblastoma. Utilizing gamma delta (γδ) T cells, extracted from healthy donors and expanded ex vivo, she targets neuroblastoma and other tumors. Jonus’s groundbreaking research fuels a first-in-child clinical trial at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, combining γδ T cells with chemoimmunotherapy. Her future focus lies in enhancing γδ T cell therapy’s efficacy by engineering cells with chimeric antigen receptors and cytokine secretion for improved tumor recognition and longevity. Jonus also plans to integrate immune checkpoint blockade to maximize γδ T cell functionality, aiming for safer and more effective high-risk neuroblastoma treatment. 

“I am ecstatic to be selected as a CureSearch Young Investigator and for the opportunity to conduct this meaningful research with significant potential to impact patients’ lives. I am hopeful for the future of γδ T cell immunotherapy and its possibility to overcome barriers in the field of adoptive cell therapy so that more patients will be able to receive this powerful treatment approach.”

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