Matthias Stephan, MD, PhD

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, Washington Associate Professor

Research Focus: Cancer vaccine

Cancer Type: Ovarian, pancreatic, solid tumors

Award: Clinical Investigator

Dr. Stephan is using his ACGT grant to support the development of a combined T-cell programming, cancer-vaccine strategy to treat cancer. His proposed method, which unites nanoparticles that carry cancer vaccine–specific T-cell receptor genes with a vaccine designed to trigger an immune response to a patient’s tumor, aims to improve the effectiveness of therapeutic cancer vaccines by guaranteeing that the patient has cancer-specific T cells capable of responding to the vaccine. The tumor-specific protein he plans to target initially is mesothelin, a protein highly expressed in pancreatic and ovarian tumors but only negligibly in healthy tissue. The researchers will provide a new T-cell receptor, or TCR, the molecule that T cells use to recognize target cells. In the proposed strategy, a single injection will provide both the cancer vaccine and the T-cell specificity needed to respond to it. Immune stimulation and T-cell programming will occur in a lymph node near the injection. If the approach works, it should work for all, Stephan said. “The idea is that none of the patients should fail because all patients will have anti-cancer T cells.” This methodology has the potential to work on other cancers as well as infectious diseases.

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