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Top Research Institute Appoints Former CRI Fellow to New Position

March 19, 2013 | Brian Brewer

Congratulations to former CRI Irvington Postdoctoral Fellow Mark S. Sundrud, Ph.D., who was recently appointed an assistant professor in the Department of Cancer Biology at The Scripps Research Institute, according to a March 14 announcement from Scripps.

Dr. Sundrud was a CRI fellow from 2006 to 2009 in the lab of Anjana Rao, Ph.D., at the Immune Disease Institute at Harvard Medical School. During his CRI fellowship, Dr. Sundrud worked to understand the role of FOXP3 gene transcription factor in regulatory T cell development and function.

Mark S. Sundrud, Ph.D.Regulatory T cells serve and important purpose in checking the immune system's activity. In healthy individuals, these cells prevent the immune system from staying in turbo drive for too long, which can result in autoimmunity and chronic inflammation. In cancer, however, regulatory T cells can impede the anti-cancer immune attack. Their role in cancer development has become a subject of intense study over the past decade.

Significant breakthroughs in cancer immunotherapy have resulted from our growing understanding of how these cells reign in the immune response. Most notable among these breakthroughs is the development of antibodies against the CTLA-4 receptor (anti-CTLA-4) like ipilimumab and tremelimumab. Ipilimumab was approved in 2011 as a first-line treatment for advanced melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

At the conclusion of his fellowship, Dr. Sundrud published a groundbreaking paper in the journal Science which described how halofuginone, a small molecule derived from the root of the blue evergreen hydrangea, specifically inhibits the development of a unique, inflammatory subset of CD4+ “helper” T cells known as Th17 cells, which have been implicated in a variety of common autoimmune disorders.

“My research has been focused on understanding the metabolic and stress response pathways of Th17 cells so one can restrict inflammation without broadly suppressing the immune system,” he said. “But if we switch that around, we may also be able to harness these same T cells and these same pathways to eradicate tumors.”

We look forward to following Dr. Sundrud's promising career and especially to his future contributions to our efforts to unleash the immune system's power to fight and conquer cancer.

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