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Immunotherapy Research

Clinical Translational Research Building (CTR)

The Division of Immunotherapy in the Department of Surgery is leading the way to improve our understanding of the role of immunotherapy in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

What sets apart immunotherapy from other fields?

This breakthrough science harnesses our bodies' own immune system to attack cancer and other diseases. In the Department of Surgery at the University of Louisville, we are committed to the Division of Immunotherapy and our innovative team of researchers who are meeting the everyday challenges to discover solutions to many medical obstacles. The faculty members in this Division are leaders in the field.

Jun Yan, MD, PhD, Director

Dr. Yan's current major research interests are to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which yeast-derived polysaccharide β-glucan modulates immunosuppressive myeloid cells to enhance antitumor immunotherapy using mouse tumor models and human cancer patients. In addition, this laboratory has recently discovered that γδT cells are the major cellular source of inflammatory cytokine IL-17 in psoriatic skin lesions and human colon cancer. This line of research investigates the roles of innate γδT cells in health and diseases. They are interested in γδT17 cell development, metabolism, and signaling pathways that regulate their activation and function. The third major area of interest in Dr. Yan's laboratory involves the roles of B cells in the regulation of autoreactive T cell activation and tolerance using a murine systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) model as well as human lung cancer. They are interested in B cell repertoire and how T-B cell collaboration in cancer shapes antitumor T cell response. Knowledge gained from these studies has led them to develop effective vaccines for cancer and autoimmune diseases. Read more about Dr. Yan.

Chuanlin Ding, PhD

Dr. Ding's broad research interests are in the areas of tumor-mediated immunosuppression and the roles of B cell regulation in autoimmune diseases as well as in tumor. Currently, the main focus of his research is to better understand the mechanisms by which tumor- and/or host-derived inflammation following cancer chemotherapy regulates the differentiation and functional changes of immunosuppressive myeloid cells. He is also interested in the development of new strategies for tumor immunotherapy. Specifically, he is investigating the roles of β-glucan, a safe and potent immunological adjuvant, in regulating myeloid cell differentiation and function. Read more about Dr. Ding.

Jorge Gomez-Gutierrez, PhD

The research of Dr. Gomez-Gutierrez focuses on microbial-based cancer therapy. His investigations focus on how virus- and bacteria-based therapies can be used to stop tumorigenesis and induce oncolysis and/or immune responses in cancers when conventional therapy is inadequate. He is studying two microorganisms: the first is a conditionally replicating adenovirus also known as oncolytic adenovirus; the second is the lactic acid bacteria Lactococcus lactis, which is generally regarded as a safe organism and is used in dairy industry to make cheese and yogurt. The former study is currently funded with an NIH/NCI exploratory/developmental grant R21CA210202. Read more about Dr. Gomez-Gutierrez.

Hongying Hao, MD, PhD

Dr. Hao has a longstanding interest in cancer research, spanning from basic studies to translational explorations. Her current studies include investigations on the mechanisms of tumor-derived exosomes in promoting melanoma progression and the use of tumor-derived exosomes and sentinel lymph node biomarkers as a prognostic approach for melanoma. She has been funded through the National Science Foundation AWARE: ACCESS (Accelerating Women and Underrepresented Entrepreneurs: Accelerate Entrepreneurial Success) program, The Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (KBRIN) Next Generation project, and as a Multiple Principal Investigator of an award funded through the hub for Expediting Commercialization, Innovation, Transition, and Entrepreneurship hub (a program funded by the NIH REACH program). She was also a coinvestigator on award from the Melanoma Research Foundation to develop a prognostic scoring system in node-negative patients and an award from the University of Louisville Clinical Translational Science and Innovation Program to develop a prognostic scoring system incorporating gene signatures in melanoma patients with positive sentinel lymph nodes. Read more about Dr. Hao.

Robert A. Mitchell, PhD

Dr. Mitchell's laboratory work focuses on characterizing the functional and mechanistic contributions of macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) family member-dependent tumor progression. One active project involves the study of MIF and its only known family member, D-dopachrome tautomerase (D-DT) as they synergistically promote the growth and survival of human non-small cell lung carcinoma focusing on the AMPK and p53 tumor suppressor pathways (Brock et al. Negative regulation of AMPK activity by MIF family members in NSCLC. J. Biol. Chem. 287(45):37917-25; Brock et al. MIF Family Members Cooperatively Inhibit p53 Expression and Activity. PLoS One 16;9(6):e99795). Read more about Dr. Mitchell.

Kavitha Yaddanapudi, MS, PhD

Dr. Yaddanapudi's lab focuses on developing novel immune-based strategies for the treatment of cancer. Early-stage research in the lab has highlighted the potential use of embryonic stem cell antigens as a novel immunotherapeutic approach to vaccinate against cancer. Read more about Dr. Yaddanapudi.