On behalf of our department, we congratulate Prof. Yvonne Chen in winning the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy 2016 Young Investigator Award in her research on immunotherapy.
Her research consists of harnessing a patient’s own immune cells to attack various cancers. Also known as Adoptive T-cell therapy, this immunology treatment harvests a patient’s T-cells (killer white cells) and reprograms them to recognize the cancer as a threat. Once returned to the body, synthetic protein receptors—known as chimeric antigen receptors (CARs)—expressed on the surface of these T cells bind to specific disease markers and trigger the T cells to destroy cancer cells. This treatment is particularly effective for leukemia and lymphoma patients whose tumors express the marker known as CD19. Several clinical trials have shown that CD19 CAR-T therapy consistently achieves positive outcomes even for patients with chemotherapy-resistant tumors, but there are still questions on the optimum parameters for success and too often studies depend on trial and error. Prof. Chen’s research aims to further examine the mechanistic basis of CAR functionality and develop a high-throughput screening method to generate high-performance CAR molecules against novel targets.