Lei Zheng, M.D., Ph.D., Clinical Team LeaderJohns Hopkins University School of Medicine

This is why I believe immunotherapy is so valuable: no other existing cancer therapies are aimed at normalizing our bodies' abilities in fighting cancers successfully.
Area of Research: Pancreatic Cancer

Dr. Zheng and his team are evaluating the pancreatic cancer vaccine GVAX in combination with several other treatments aimed at making these normally immunologically quiet tumors more responsive to immunotherapy. Among their approaches are those that target: metabolism via aspirin and metformin, which is an FDA approved drug for diabetes; epigenetics via inhibitors of DNA methyltransferase (DMTi) and histone deacetylase (HDACi); and the stromal cells in the tumor microenvironment via drugs that target the OX40 receptor. They also evaluated checkpoint inhibitors against the PD-1 and CTLA-4 pathways, as well as the drug PEGPH20, which degrades the hyaluronic acid molecules that are found at high levels in pancreatic tumors. Through this work, they revealed potential therapeutic benefits associated with certain combinations, and next plan to test these approaches in the clinic.

Projects and Grants

Tipping the balance in the tumor microenvironment as a next generation platform for pancreatic cancer immunotherapy

Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine | Pancreatic Cancer | 2015

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