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    Laura McLane and Mike Betts -Purified human CD8 T-cells were stained with a-T-bet (green), a-Lamin A (pink), and DAPI (blue) and imaged on a multilaser-based spinning disk confocal microscope (Zeiss). T-bet can be localized to both the nuclear and cytoplasmic compartments of specific subsets of human CD8 T-cells.

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    3D image of the inflamed meningeal membrane of a CX3CR1-GFP reporter mouse infected with Toxoplasma gondii. The dura mater that surrounds the brain is blue, blood vessels are labeled red and microglia and macrophages are green. Contributors for image are ChristophKonradt and Chris Hunter.

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    Time series of cells expressing GFP-tagged ebola viral protein VP40, pseudocolored as a fluorescence intensity heatmap. The contributors for image are: Gordon Ruthel, Xiaohong Liu, Ron Harty, and Bruce Freedman.

IFI Members in the News

Two Strains of HIV Cut Vastly Different Paths

March 5, 2015

In continuing coverage, a study showing that two of the four known groups of human AIDS viruses (HIV-1 groups O and P) originated in western lowland gorillas, appeared in several outlets. The international research team conducted a comprehensive survey of simian immunodeficiency viral infection in African gorillas. Coauthor Beatrice Hahn, MD, a professor of Medicine and Microbiology, was quoted.

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Two Strains of HIV Cut Vastly Different Paths

March 3, 2015

Two of the four known groups of human AIDS viruses (HIV-1 groups O and P) have originated in western lowland gorillas, according to an international team of scientists. They conducted a comprehensive survey of simian immunodeficiency viral infection in African gorillas, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.  Coauthor Beatrice Hahn, MD, a professor of Medicine and Microbiology, was quoted in several outlets, including the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times.

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Killing Cancer

March 2, 2015

A VICE special report on efforts to treat cancer using the power of viruses and other immunotherapeutic approaches profiled Carl June, MD , a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of the Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center, and Stephan Grupp, MD, PhD, a professor of Pediatrics and director of Translational Research in the Center for Childhood Cancer Research at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Two pediatric patients who participated in the clinical trials of the Penn-developed cellular therapy known as CRL019 were also featured in the show.

VICE Segment

Biomarker Levels Associated with IRIS in Patients with HIV, TB

February 20, 2015

Reporting in the Lancet Infectious Diseases, Shruthi Ravimohan, PhD, a research associate in the division of Infectious Diseases, and Gregory P. Bisson, MD, MSCE, an assistant professor in the division of Infectious Diseases and a senior scholar at the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, evaluated over 200 patients in Botswana before and after they began antiretroviral therapy, and found several immune biomarkers that may help better stratify patients, and guide future research and treatments before HIV treatment begins.

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NIH researchers reveal link between powerful gene regulatory elements and autoimmune diseases

February 17, 2015

Investigators with the National Institutes of Health have discovered the genomic switches of a blood cell key to regulating the human immune system. The findings, published in Nature today, open the door to new research and development in drugs and personalized medicine to help those with autoimmune disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease or rheumatoid arthritis. The lead author, Golnaz Vahedi, Ph.D., will be joining the Perelman School of Medicine in May 2015 as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Genetics.

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Cancer Gene Therapy Moves Ahead

February 16, 2015

A Fox News segment details progress in Penn's gene therapy trials for blood cancers, including the story of a patient who was one of the first participants in studies to test this new approach, who remains cancer-free more than four years later. One of the trial's leaders, David Porter, MD, a professor of Hematology-Oncology and director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center, is quoted in the story, and in a San Diego Union Tribune article recapping the results of the trials so far.

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The Future of Precision Medicine

February 16, 2015

David Roth, MD, PhD, director of the Center for Personalized Diagnostics and chair of the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, explained to the audience of SiriusXM's "POTUS" radio show that precision medicine helps diagnose individuals more accurately.  Doctors are able to pinpoint a particular kind of illness a patient has and treat it more effectively, instead of a process of trial and error.

Listen to the radio segment

Physician Turned Patient Finds Low Fat Good for His Heart

February 16, 2015

A Philadelphia Inquirer article asks: Can a modified vegan diet -- heavy of tofu, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and low on saturated and trans fats -- significantly help with heart disease?  Daniel Rader, MD director of the Preventative Cardiovascular Program, says that avoiding saturated and trans fats is the most important dietary change one can make to reduce the risk of heart disease.

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Is Your Heart Older Than You Are?

February 10, 2015

A Prevention magazine article about improving your "heart age" includes advice from Daniel Rader, MD, director of the Preventative Cardiovascular Program.  He says that for someone with a family history of heart disease, in addition to leading a healthy lifestyle, taking a statin can further reduce the risk of a heart attack.

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New Biomarker

February 9, 2015

A somatic gene mutation is a potential molecular marker for rare adrenal tumors, according to research by Katherine Nathanson and Lauren FIsbein of Medicine.

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Inflammation Application: How Tumor-Causing Cells are Recruited in Cancers Linked to Chronic Inflammatory Diseases

February 9, 2015

Investigators including, Dmitry Gabrilovich, MD, PhD have demonstrated what is happening at a cellular level that allows for chronic inflammation to cause a variety of cancers; inflammatory conditions are associated with a specific phenotype of myeloid cells called immature granulocytic cells, they report.

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Immune Biomarkers Help Predict Early Death, Complications in HIV Patients with TB, Penn Study Finds

February 9, 2015

Doctors treating patients battling both HIV and tuberculosis (TB) - many of whom live in Africa are faced with the decision when to start those patients on entrepreneurial therapy (ART) while they are being treated with antibiotics for active TB disease.  Reporting in a new study published online this week in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, researchers under the Botswana-UPenn Partnership, including Shruthl Ravimohan, PhD, a research associate in the division of Infectious Disease, and Gregory P. Bisson, MD, MSCE an Assistant Professor in the division of Infectious Diseases, have identified immune biomarkers in these patients before they begin ART.

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Mosquitoes Ramp Up Immune Defenses After Sucking Blood, Penn Vet Researcher Finds

February 6, 2015

University of Pennsylvania and Imperial College London researchers learned in a new study that after ingesting a meal of blood, mosquitoes ramp up production of immune system proteins that help fight off the parasites that blood might contain.  "This appears to be a new mechanism by which the mosquito is anticipating a parasite infection," said Michael Povelones, an assistant professor in Penn's School of Veterinary Medicine, who coauthored the study.  A greater understanding of how mosquitoes naturally fight off infection could offer a strategy for preventing humans from getting infected with those same pathogens.

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Sugar Switch

January 29, 2015

Slow-healing wounds are a serious problem for diabetics. A study led by Dental Medicine's Dana Graves has identified a molecule that may be responsible.

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Penn Study Reveals Possible Therapeutic Target for Common, but Mysterious Brain Blood Vessel Disorder

January 27, 2015

Cardiovascular scientists at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have studied a pathway in heart development to discover an important set of molecular signals, triggered by cerebral cavernous malformation-linked gene defects that potentially could be targeted to treat the disorder. “We hope that these findings will lead to a better understanding of the origins of CCM, and thus to treatment possibilities,” says Mark L. Kahn, MD, a professor of Cardiovascular Medicine, and senior author of the new study, published in Developmental Cell.

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Honor Recipient

January 26, 2015

For his work in cancer biology, Xianxin Hua of Medicine has been awarded a Harrington Scholar-Innovator Award and $100,000 for two years to support his research.

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Important Work

January 23, 2015

Beatrice Hahn of Medicine will be honored by the American College of Physicians for her research on the origins of the human AIDS viruses and malaria parasites.

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Joint Infections

January 23, 2015

Based on a review led by Dental Medicine professor Thomas Sollecito, the ADA issued a new guideline regarding the use of antibiotics before dental procedures.

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Mutated ATRX Gene Linked to Brain and Pancreatic Neuroendocrine Tumors is Potential Biomarker for Rare Adrenal Tumors Too

January 21, 2015

A somatic mutation in the ATRX gene recently demonstrating potential as a molecular marker for aggressive brain tumors could also serve as a biomarker for rare neuroendocrine tumors, according to a new Penn Medicine study in Nature Communications, reports Endocrine Today. “We have identified, for the first time, somatic ATRX mutations in pheochromocytomas and paragangliomas,” said Katherine Nathanson, MD, an associate professor in the division of Translational Medicine and Chief Oncogenomics Physician for the Abramson Cancer Center. The mutation could not only serve as that biomarker for metastatic disease, but also a potential therapeutic drug target in the future

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Inovio Begins Human Testing of Cancer Therapy

December 22, 2014

A Philadelphia Business Journal blog post covered a newly-opened phase I clinical trial using hTERT DNA immunotherapy. The drug will be tested in adults with breast, lung, or pancreatic cancer at high risk of relapse after surgery and other cancer treatments.  The ultimate goal is to reduce the risk of relapse in these patients. "The next great wave of oncology advancements will be treatments which empower the patient's own immune system to seek and destroy cancer," said principal investigator, Robert Vonderheide, MD, PhD, the Hanna Wise Professor in Cancer Research in the Abramson Cancer Center.

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Can AIDS be Cured?

December 17, 2014

A feature in The New Yorker on HIV/AIDS referenced a Penn Medicine study published in New England Journal of Medicine in March on HIV gene therapy and CCR5, a rare mutation that provides a natural resistance to the virus. In that study, Carl H. June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in the department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of translational research at the Abramson Cancer Center, and colleagues successfully genetically engineered the immune cells of 12 HIV positive patients to resist infection, and decreased the viral loads of some patients taken off antiretroviral drug therapy entirely.

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Evading the Immune System

November 18, 2014

Lynn Wang from Carry the One Radio The Science Podcast in San Francisco spoke with Dr. John Wherry about evading the immune system. "Although our immune system s amazing at what it does, there are complex cases where it fails us. Everyday, our bodies fight off hordes of bacteria and viruses that cause disease. When fighting cancer, our bodies even face their own cells that have gone rogue.  However, certain pathogens and cancers manage to circumvent our immune system."

Listen to the Podcast Here

How Immune Cells Become Cancer Hunters

November 13, 2014

News outlets across the U.S. and in the UK covered the story of an Abramson Cancer Center patient who participated in a Penn clinical trial in which his own immune cells were modified to target and attack his leukemia. Marshall Jensen, a 30-year-old musician, husband and father recently returned to his Utah hometown in remission after spending several months in Philadelphia receiving treatment. His cancer had come back several times previously despite chemotherapy drugs and bone marrow transplants. “’We were calling it our Hail Mary pass,’” he said of the Penn trial. 'It felt right. … We didn't know how we were going to get out there, what we were going to do, but it worked. By God's grace I was able to come back.” The Penn research team is led by Carl June, MD, and Jensen was treated by David Porter, MD, and Noelle Frey, MD.

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Medicine's Future

November 7, 2014

"BBC Horizons" points to Dental Medicine's Henry Daniell and Physics' Charlie Johnson as innovators whose work may "change the world as we know it."

Watch the video

HIV Gene Therapy: From Bench to Bedside

November 6, 2014

Ivanhoe reports on a clinical trial from Penn Medicine researchers who engineered the immune cells of 12 HIV positive patients to resist infection. The phase I study, led by Carl June, MD, professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Bruce L. Levine, PhD, associate professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, and Pablo Tebas, MD, professor of Medicine in the division of Infectious Diseases, is the first successful clinical test of any gene editing approach in humans. CBS affiliates in Huntsville, AL., Anchorage and Juneau, Alaska, picked up the story. The clinical trial was also referenced in a MIT Technology article.

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CBS Segment

Path to a Cure

October 21, 2014

A new form of gene therapy for boys with X-linked severe combined immunodeficiency syndrome (SCID-X1), a life threatening condition also known as “bubble boy” disease, appears to be both safe and effective, according to a study by Frederic Bushman of the Perelman School of Medicine.

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T Cell Therapy Puts Leukemia Patients in Extended Remission

October 16, 2014

Ninety percent of patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia went into remission after participating in trials of a personalized cellular therapy,  CTL019, in the Abramson Cancer Center and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, according to new study published today by a Perelman School of Medicine research team in the New England Journal of Medicine. The team’s results, detailed in the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Reuters, Bloomberg News, CBS3 and other news outlets, represent an unprecedented success in the fight against this type of cancer, in a group of patients whose diseases had defied conventional treatments. “With the initial patients, we didn't know if it was just lucky,” the study team’s leader, Carl H. June, MD a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center, told the New York Times. “It turns out it’s reproducible.”Stephan Grupp, MD, PhD, a professor of Pediatrics and director of Translational Research in the Center for Childhood Cancer Research at CHOP Noelle Frey, MD, MSCE, an assistant professor of Medicine in the Abramson Cancer Center, and David Porter, MD, a professor of Medicine and director of the Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center, are also quoted in news coverage of the new study.

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Taubman Institute Awards Annual $100,000 Research Grant

October 13, 2014

The University of Michigan's A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute presented its $100,000 Taubman Prize for Excellence in Translation Medical Science Friday to Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy in Penn's department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. He was honored for his work developing a personalized cellular therapy for leukemia, in which a patient's own immune cells are engineered to fight their cancer.

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Why Our Foundation Takes on Grand Challenges

October 10, 2014

George Shaw, MD, PhD, professor of Medicine and Microbiology, is featured in a video on Bill Gates' personal blog, "Gatesnotes." The post marks the 10th anniversary of Gates Foundation’s Grand Challenges in Global Health program and the general concept of catalytic philanthropy. Shaw's research on HIV is covered, which has received a Grand Challenge grant. 

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A Closer Look

September 19, 2014

A study led by Svetlana Fayngerts and Youhai Chen of Medicine shows that lipid chemical messengers may be effective in treating cancer and inflammatory disorders.

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Exercise Boosts Tumor-fighting Ability of Chemotherapy, Penn Team Finds

September 18, 2014

Nursing's Joseph Libonati and Medicine’s Sandra Ryeom found that pairing exercise with chemotherapy made cancer drugs more effective at shrinking tumors in mice.

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Perelman School of Medicine Cancer Research Shines on Stand Up To Cancer Telethon

September 8, 2014

Friday night's Stand Up To Cancer telethon - carried on a record 31 TV networks and live-streamed on Hulu and Yahoo - featured interviews with Perelman School of Medicine faculty members Carl June, MD, a professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center, and Stephan Grupp, MD, PhD, a professor of Pediatrics and director of Translational Research in the Center for Childhood Cancer Research at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, discussing advances in personalized immunotherapy that have led to unprecedented outcomes for patients with leukemia. The SU2C-St. Baldrick's Pediatric Cancer Dream Team, which aims to expand this type of approach to other cancers, is co-led by Perelman School of Medicine faculty members at CHOP.

Watch the Videos- SU2C segment #1 and SU2C segment #2

Plant-based Research at Penn Prevents Complication of Hemophilia Treatment in Mice

September 5, 2014

Using his plant-based drug delivery system, Henry Daniell of Dental Medicine led a study in mice that successfully prevented a common complication of hemophilia treatment.

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Germ Theory

July 24, 2014

Ronald Collman and Elizabeth Grice are among Medicine faculty integrating microbiomics into their work to see how bacteria, viruses and fungi help keep people healthy.

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Progress on HIV/AIDS

July 18, 2014

Ian Frank, MD, professor in the division of Infectious Diseases and director of Anti-Retroviral Clinical Research in the Penn Center for AIDS Research, was a guest on WHYY's "Radio Times" with Marty Moss-Coane for a show on the progress of HIV/AIDS treatment and research. Where do we stand in the battle against the epidemic? Frank was joined by AIDS activists for a roundtable discussion—everything from the Mississippi baby to the recent loss of the AIDS researchers on the downed Malaysian flight was tackled. “This is a huge tragedy for everyone that lost their lives and for their families and friends,” said Frank. “This is a huge blow to the HIV community,” he added.

Listen to the audio

As pancreas cancer threat grows, so do strategies

July 13, 2014

A war on pancreas cancer is underway right here at the Abramson Cancer Center. A story in Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer featured the work of Jeffrey Drebin, MD, chair of Surgery and the John Rhea Barton Professor of Surgery, and Robert Vonderheide, MD, the Hanna Wise Professor in Cancer Research in the ACC. Drebin and Vonderheide—both co-leads on Stand up to Cancer Dream Teams—are investigating new targeted therapies, immunotherapies, and more, to better the understand and treat the disease, which is projected to become this country's second-leading cancer killer. "We absolutely need to figure it out," said Vonderheide. "It's a medical emergency." Ongoing studies at the ACC have shed light on tumor biology and shown success with the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine. "We're not declaring victory,” Drebin told the Inquirer. “We're declaring progress.”.

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FDA Designates Penn's Leukemia Treatment as 'Breakthrough Therapy'

July 9, 2014

In continuing coverage, WHYY radio talked to David Porter, MD, the Jodi Fisher Horowitz Professor in Leukemia Care Excellence and director of Blood and Marrow Transplantation in the Abramson Cancer Center, about the recent FDA "Breakthrough Therapy" designation awarded to Penn's immunotherapy to treat relapsed and refractory adult and pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  The designation--a first for a personalized cellular therapy to treat cancer-- should help expedite the review and approval process. "It allows us to work more collaboratively with the FDA so that the trials can be done efficiently so there can be proper and early oversight," Porter said. "Hopefully, it will be on a more rapid path to approval in the future."

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Penn' s Immunotherapy for Leukemia Receives FDA's Breakthrough Designation

July 7, 2014

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration awarded the University of Pennsylvania’s personalized immunotherapy—known as CTL019—its Breakthrough Therapy Designation for the treatment of relapsed and refractory adult and pediatric acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), reports the Wall Street Journal and Reuters. Such a designation expedites the development and review of new medicines that treat serious or life-threatening conditions. “Receiving the FDA’s Breakthrough Designation is an essential step in our work with Novartis to expand this therapy to patients across the world who desperately need new options to help them fight this disease,” said Carl June, MD, the Richard W. Vague Professor in Immunotherapy and director of Translational Research in the Abramson Cancer Center. CTL019 is the first personalized cellular therapy for the treatment of cancer to receive this important classification. The announcement was also covered by Agence France-Presse, the Philadelphia Business Journal, and Fierce Biotech.

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Laser and Drones: June at Penn Medicine, in Photos

June 30, 2014

The University of Pennsylvania campus largely falls silent in the summer months, but Penn Medicine keeps on truckin'. In fact, the month of June featured two of my favorite photography assignments thus far: lasers and drones.

First up, we have E. John Wherry, PhD, director of the Institute for Immunology, and his Becton Dickenson LSR II flow cytometer. If you have no idea what that means, you're not alone — so Wherry was kind enough to explain it:

"This instrument allows us to assess up to 20 parameters simultaneously at a single cell level with an amazing rate of up to 20,000 cells/second," he wrote in an e-mail. "As a result we can perform detailed profiling of the function of immune cells in different disease states."

Long story short, it enables researchers to determine which therapies are working and why a given therapy is effective or ineffective. This ultimately helps us develop better therapies and determine which patients will respond to a given treatment.

On top of that, it looks really cool. Wherry popped the hood on it and let me take a few shots. You can see them — and Wherry — in the slideshow at the bottom of this post.

Read More and see the slide show

Penn Immunologist to Co-direct $12 Million Grant to Study Hepatitis

June 30, 2014

John Wherry, PhD, an associate professor of Microbiology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) are co-directing a $12 million grant to study immune responses in people who have been effectively cured of hepatitis C viral infection with new, high-potency antiviral drugs.  This grant is part of the Cooperative Centers for Human Immunology program, administered by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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Outstanding New Investigator Award

June 19, 2014

IFI investigator, Daniel J. Powell Jr. Ph.D., has been selected by the Board of Directors from the American Society of Gene & Cell Therapy (ASGCT) for a 2014 Outstanding New Investigator Award. Dr. Powell was selected from a competitive field of nominations based upon his significant contributions to the field of gene and cell therapy. The award ceremony and presentation session was held during the 17th Annual Meeting in Washington DC on May 23 rd , 2014, and was attended by thousands of meeting participants. Below is a summary from his award presentation:

The Powell Lab is developing innovative immunotherapy strategies built upon clinical observations and studies in basic T cell biology. Adoptive T cell therapy using naturally-occurring tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) or peripheral blood T cells genetically modified to express a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) can mediate comprehensive cancer elimination in patients, provided that highly avid, tumor antigen-specific T cells with the ability to proliferate and persist after infusion can be identified. We recently overcame one obstacle to widespread TIL therapy by showing that naturally-occurring tumor-reactive T cells in various cancers can be identified by their cell surface expression of the TNFR superfamily receptor, CD137, demonstrating a role for CD137 in the immunobiology of cancer. To instill T cells with enhanced ability to persist after infusion, we recently applied CAR technology as a tool to test the impact of various costimulatory signals on human CAR T cell survival following antigen encounter in vivo, and discovered a functional role for CD27 in human T cell memory formation. We also devised a novel dual CAR T cell approach where the TCR signal is dissociated from costimulatory signals in two independent CARs of distinct antigen specificity, thus delivering tumor-focused activity while comparatively sparing normal healthy tissues expressing a low level of single antigen. Lastly, to develop widespread T cell therapy, we pioneered a universal immune receptor approach that is adaptable in antigen specificity, allowing for highly personalized T cell generation based upon the repertoire of antigens expressed by each individual’s cancer cells. These strategies build on the early success of adoptive immunotherapy by addressing significant hurdles to otherwise safe and effective T cell therapy.

Recent IFI Faculty Awards and Honors

Jim Riley, Ph.D.

2014 recipient of the Lady Barbara Colyton Prize for Autoimmune Research


Daniel Rader, M.D.
2014 recipient of the prestigious Clinical Research Award

Kenneth Shindler, M.D.

Recipient of the American Academy of Ophthalmology AchievementAward