Michael Bloomberg
Michael BloombergReuters

Former New York mayor and businessman Michael Bloomberg, Jones Apparel Group founder Sidney Kimmel, and other philanthropists would announce $125 million grant to the John Hopkins University, Tuesday, to set up an institute focussed on finding a possible cancer treatment through immunotherapy, the Washington Post reported. Bloomberg and Kimmel would invest $50 million each in the initiative.

The move aims to provide an impetus to President Obama's $1 billion National Cancer Moonshot project, which is headed by Vice-President Joe Biden. The initiative entails to expand the work being done on immunotherapy treatment for cancers.

Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that uses body's own immune system to fight the cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, immunotherapy has shown promising results against many types of cancer.

The institute, to be called the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, will be headed by Drew Pardoll, a researcher known for discoveries related to three types of white blood cells. The grants would be used for research, recruitment of scientists and development of infrastructure needed to produce the cellular materials for investigations.

The team that will research immunotherapy treatment in cancer comprises Pardoll and his wife, Suzanne Topalian, a prominent melanoma (skin cancer) researcher. The institute will study the treatment modules in melanoma, colon, pancreatic, urologic, lung, breast and ovarian cancers.

"If some people are willing to put in their own money, it will make it more credible," Bloomberg was quoted as saying by the Washington Post.

Experts in cancer, microbiology, immunology, genetics and biomedical engineering would team up to find the breakthrough cancer treatment at the proposed institute, which is to be housed at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

John Hopkins President Ronal Daniel is hopeful the grants to the university would allow the researchers to dream big. "We have these truly extraordinary results in a group of patients that are so-called responders. But there are still question marks about the patients who are not responding," Daniel said.

Scientists were unable to achieve a breakthrough in immunotherapy treatment for decades because the body's immune system was unable to see cancer as foreign and hence refrained from attacking cancer cells. However, the recent discovery of checkpoint indicators, a new class of drugs, has enabled the body's immune system to attack cancer cells.

Former U.S President Jimmy Carter, who was diagnosed with skin cancer, recovered after he was treated with radiotherapy and immunotherapy. More than 1.6 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed and cancer will kill an estimated 600,000 Americans in 2016, as per the official data.