The Immunology Program includes 30 members (26 primary, 3 associate, 1 adjunct) from 9 departments. The program is led by Dr. James Allison, an international authority on exploring fundamental mechanisms of the immune response and checkpoint control, with co-leaders Dr. Jeffrey Molldrem, providing expertise in stem cell and translational research, and Dr. Patrick Hwu, lending his extensive experience in novel vaccines and adoptive T-cell therapies. The scientific goal of the Immunology Program is to conduct important studies in basic immunology and translate the findings into effective cancer immunotherapy. The program focuses on 4 themes: 1) immune regulation, 2) immune checkpoint blockade, 3) cancer vaccines, and 4) T-cell therapies, each with a specific aim:
Aim 1 : To understand fundamental mechanisms involved in regulating innate and adaptive immune responses.
Aim 2 : To elucidate fundamental cellular and molecular mechanisms of immune checkpoints and their impact on the tumor microenvironment by using preclinical models and clinical trials to identify the basis for failure of response to therapy or relapse.
Aim 3 : To identify novel targets for cancer vaccine development that will enable vaccination strategies to be more widely applied to the prevention and treatment of cancer.
Aim 4 : To improve the success rate of T-cell-based therapies using a combinatorial approach (T-cell therapy and checkpoint control) to improve clinical responses. Work on the Immunotherapy Platform, led by program members Drs. Allison, Padmanee Sharma, and Hwu and funded by the cancer center, spans multiple aims and serves as a mechanism to foster iterative cycles of translation between basic and clinical work by providing immune monitoring of patient samples and driving new preclinical and clinical studies by generating mechanistic data to inform rational design of new drug combinations. As of May 1, 2018, 3,434 patients have been enrolled across 118 different clinical trials. Annual direct peer-reviewed funding for the Immunology Program is $6.4M, with $1.9M (30%) from NCI grants and $4.5M (70%) from other peer-reviewed sources. Since the last submission, the program has produced 464 published papers: 184 (40%) are intraprogrammatic collaborations, 250 (54%) are interprogrammatic collaborations, and 278 (60%) are external collaborations. Sixty-five percent of articles appeared in journals with IF >5, and 31% appeared in journals with IF >10, including N Engl J Med, Nature, Cell, Science, Cancer Discov, Immunity, and Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. Program members use all 14 shared resources. Notable accomplishments during the last grant period included the demonstration that anti- CTLA-4 and anti-PD-1 therapies act on distinct T-cell populations, providing an explanation for the benefit achieved by combined therapy, and discovery of a positive correlation between gut microbiome diversity and response to immune checkpoint blockade therapy that is transferred along with fecal transplants. See the Program Highlights for other noteworthy accomplishments.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Center Core Grants (P30)
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Subcommittee I - Transistion to Independence (NCI)
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University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
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Casasent, Anna K; Schalck, Aislyn; Gao, Ruli et al. (2018) Multiclonal Invasion in Breast Tumors Identified by Topographic Single Cell Sequencing. Cell 172:205-217.e12
Noh, Hyangsoon; Zhao, Qingnan; Yan, Jun et al. (2018) Cell surface vimentin-targeted monoclonal antibody 86C increases sensitivity to temozolomide in glioma stem cells. Cancer Lett 433:176-185
Hutcheson, Katherine A; Barrow, Martha P; Plowman, Emily K et al. (2018) Expiratory muscle strength training for radiation-associated aspiration after head and neck cancer: A case series. Laryngoscope 128:1044-1051
Zhao, Jun; Xiao, Zhilan; Li, Tingting et al. (2018) Stromal Modulation Reverses Primary Resistance to Immune Checkpoint Blockade in Pancreatic Cancer. ACS Nano 12:9881-9893
Akhtari, Mani; Milgrom, Sarah A; Pinnix, Chelsea C et al. (2018) Reclassifying patients with early-stage Hodgkin lymphoma based on functional radiographic markers at presentation. Blood 131:84-94
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Bayraktar, Recep; Ivan, Cristina; Bayraktar, Emine et al. (2018) Dual Suppressive Effect of miR-34a on the FOXM1/eEF2-Kinase Axis Regulates Triple-Negative Breast Cancer Growth and Invasion. Clin Cancer Res 24:4225-4241
Parra, Edwin R; Villalobos, Pamela; Mino, Barbara et al. (2018) Comparison of Different Antibody Clones for Immunohistochemistry Detection of Programmed Cell Death Ligand 1 (PD-L1) on Non-Small Cell Lung Carcinoma. Appl Immunohistochem Mol Morphol 26:83-93
Yalniz, Fevzi Firat; Daver, Naval; Rezvani, Katayoun et al. (2018) A Pilot Trial of Lirilumab With or Without Azacitidine for Patients With Myelodysplastic Syndrome. Clin Lymphoma Myeloma Leuk 18:658-663.e2

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