Dr. Stefan Barisic Turns Laboratory Discoveries into Kidney Cancer Treatments
Wednesday, June 22, 2022
The Laboratory of Transplantation Immunotherapy sits at the heart of the NIH Clinical Center, just down the hallway from the Southeast inpatient unit. Here, IRP postdoctoral research fellow Stefan Barisic, M.D., labors at the bench with the goal of creating practical treatments for kidney cancer patients. Having such proximity to his patients was one of the chief attractions of working at NIH for Dr. Barisic.
“The NIH Clinical Center is an amazing place because it has all the resources you need to go from the bench to the bedside and back to the bench all in one building,” says Dr. Barisic.
IRP Researchers Develop Drug to Recapture Immune Cells Hijacked by Tumors
Friday, June 3, 2022
In the 1958 cult classic The Blob, a giant gelatinous creature from outer space lands on Earth and begins engulfing a small town and everything in it. While that may sound far out, a similar entity within our bodies does much the same thing, but for good instead of ill. These Pac-Man-like blobs are called macrophages — Greek for ‘big eaters’ — and they serve a vital role in keeping us healthy by clearing away dead cells and digesting foreign invaders like bacteria and cancer cells.
However, cancer cells aren’t content to just let themselves be eaten. They have evolved ways to overwhelm and commandeer the immune system, redirecting immune cells to support tumor growth rather than suppress it. Although highly personalized ‘immunotherapies’ that reboot the immune response and harness it to fight cancer have made significant advances in treating some forms of the disease, most cancers do not respond to these treatments. Fortunately, reinforcements are on the way: IRP senior investigators Udo Rudloff, M.D., Ph.D., and Juan Marugan, Ph.D., have identified a way to reclaim the loyalty of macrophages that are aiding and abetting tumors, turning them back into the cancer-consuming gluttons they were meant to be. Importantly, this approach may be effective on a broader array of cancers than other immunotherapies.
Monday, May 16, 2022
The IRP community is profoundly saddened by the recent passing of Joost “Joe” Oppenheim, M.D., Senior Investigator and Head of the Cellular Immunology Section in the Cancer Innovation Laboratory at NIH's National Cancer Institute (NCI). He died on May 14, 2022, at the age of 87.
Dr. Oppenheim was engaged in cellular immunology research at NIH for five decades and was instrumental in the discovery of cytokines, chemokines, and alarmins, which are substances produced by immune cells that enable them to communicate and act as 'first responders' to injury or infection.
Many NIH Labs Remain Focused on COVID Research
Monday, February 14, 2022
Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, IRP researchers have been hard at work learning about the virus and developing ways to prevent and treat infections. That research remains as important as ever, particularly as the new Omicron variant of the virus continues to spread rapidly.
Fortunately, NIH’s Intramural Targeted Anti-COVID-19 Program (ITAC) has been providing IRP scientists with millions of dollars to support their research on the pandemic virus, known as SARS-CoV-2. Last week, the “I Am Intramural” blog discussed ITAC-funded efforts to learn about the biology of the virus and how it affects the body. This week, we’ll look at IRP projects focused on ways to track, treat, and prevent infections.
COVID-19 Research at NIH Show No Signs of Slowing
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
It’s been more than two years since the first outbreak of COVID-19 occurred in China. During that time, amazing scientific advances have dramatically altered prevention and treatment for the illness, including the development of remarkably safe and effective vaccines. However, even with widespread vaccination, scientists predict that the disease will continue to circulate in society indefinitely, with seasonal ebbs and flows like the flu.
As a result, even as COVID-19 vaccine shots rolled out by the hundreds of millions, numerous IRP researchers continued studying the disease and the virus responsible for it. Many of these projects have been funded by the NIH’s Intramural Targeted Anti-COVID-19 Program (ITAC), an initiative that provides IRP researchers with funding for research related to COVID-19. Over the past year and a half, ITAC has provided more than $12 million to support a wide variety of projects — more than can be covered in just one blog post. Read on to learn about just a handful of the many ways IRP researchers are contributing to the fight against COVID-19, and stay tuned next week for another blog describing even more ITAC-funded COVID research.
Immune System Genes Linked to Severe Side Effects in Patients with Rare Disease
Tuesday, January 11, 2022
When you run the largest-ever study of a rare childhood disease, you become the go-to person when your peers notice something peculiar in patients with the illness. It was not too surprising, then, when a researcher from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, asked IRP investigator Michael Ombrello, M.D., to help her team follow a new lead in the mystery of why some patients with a rare inflammatory condition called Still’s disease were coming down with a life-threatening lung ailment. The results of their collaboration could lead to a new precision medicine approach that individualizes therapy for Still’s disease based on patients’ DNA.
NIH Researcher Recognized for Important Insights Into Malaria Transmission
Wednesday, January 5, 2022
In many parts of the world, the high-pitched buzz of a mosquito is a harbinger of more than an annoying itch — it’s a warning of possible malaria infection. Malaria, a disease spread by mosquitos that causes high fever and flu-like illness, is a serious risk for nearly half of the world’s population. According to the World Health Organization, there were 241 million cases of malaria and 627,000 deaths in 2020 alone. More than 95 percent of them occurred in Africa.
Efforts to combat malaria using measures like preventative treatments and environmental mitigation have helped to reduce infections and deaths over the past decade, but those improvements have recently plateaued, according to IRP Distinguished Investigator Carolina Barillas-Mury, M.D., Ph.D., section chief in the Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research in the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
Mouse Study Suggests Approach to Combat Patients’ Debilitating Tiredness
Tuesday, November 2, 2021
The human body is like any delicate ecosystem — disrupting just one part of it can have unexpected, widespread repercussions. Cancer patients know this well, not just because a tumor confined to one organ can cause a range of symptoms, but also because radiation treatment aimed specifically at the tumor sometimes leaves patients feeling utterly exhausted. New IRP research suggests that an inflammatory response to targeted radiation therapy is responsible for this common side effect of the treatment.
Groundbreaking Immunotherapy Research Revolutionizes Cancer Treatment
Monday, October 25, 2021
Like many young boys, IRP senior investigator Steven A. Rosenberg, M.D., Ph.D., initially believed he would grow up to become a cowboy, a dream he shared with his older brother, Jerry. That plan changed after World War II ended and stories began coming out of Europe about members of his family who had perished in concentration camps.
“I just became so upset about the evil that people could perpetrate on one another,” he recalls. “Right then and there, I knew I wanted to do the opposite. I wanted to do things that would help people, and I developed almost a spiritual desire to become a doctor.”
He ultimately did become a doctor, and his pioneering research into how cancer interacts with the immune system has led to treatments that are reducing suffering for many people with cancer. In recognition of this groundbreaking work, Dr. Rosenberg was awarded the HHS Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service in August 2021. The highest honor given by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the award celebrates excellence in leadership, ability, and service.
Friday, October 8, 2021
The NIH community is profoundly saddened by the recent passing of Thomas A. Waldmann, M.D., Chief Emeritus of the Lymphoid Malignancies Branch and NIH Distinguished Investigator.
Considered a giant in the field, Tom was a renowned immunologist whose more than 60-year career at the National Cancer Institute led to numerous high-impact discoveries that advanced the fields of organ transplantation, autoimmune disease and cancer. He was a leader in the study of cytokines and their receptors and of monoclonal antibodies, now a dominant form of cancer immunotherapy.