Yvonne Chen MS, PhD

University of California, Los Angeles Assistant Professor, Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering

Research Focus: Immunotherapy

Cancer Type: Lymphoma/Leukemia

Award: Young Investigator

Great progress has been made in harnessing a patient’s own immune cells to attack various cancers. Also known as Adoptive T Cell therapy, 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, these synthetic proteins bind to specific disease markers to destroy cancer cells. The reprogrammed cells use a dual-action protein known as a chimeric antigen receptor [CAR] that first recognizes the tumor and then seeks to destroy it. Dr. Chen studies Car T therapy research to eradicate lymphoma and leukemia cancers. This treatment is particularly effective for patients who evidence the marker known as CD19, as these patients do not respond to conventional therapies. Several clinical trials have shown that CD19 CAR T therapy consistently achieves positive outcomes, but there are still questions on the optimum parameters for success and too often studies depend on trial and error. Dr. Chen’s research aims to further examine the technique and develop a screening method to establish consistently high impact.

Dr. Chen’s interest is the development of synthetic biological systems with applications in health and medicine. She brings to her research interdisciplinary skills learned in academic training and professional work experience in the pharmaceutical industry, as well as advanced studies in immunotherapy and systems biology. She earned an MS and a PhD in Chemical Engineering at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, and held postdoctoral positions at Seattle Children’s Research Institute, WA, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

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