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.
World-Renowned Geneticist Discusses His Experience Leading NIH
Monday, November 22, 2021
Francis S. Collins, who is stepping down from his post as NIH Director by the end of the year, spoke recently with staff from The NIH Catalyst, the NIH Record, and the “I am Intramural” Blog. Read on for a few highlights from that conversation, or read the full interview originally published The NIH Catalyst.
On NIH’s efforts to improve diversity in the scientific workforce
“Diversity is a hugely important issue for our workforce, our grantee community, and our clinical-trials participation. Several years ago I put together a diversity working group of my advisory committee, and out of that came the creation of a new position, the Chief Officer for Scientific Workforce Diversity. The initial holder of that post was Dr. Hannah Valantine, and now Dr. Marie Bernard leads the office. In addition, we have made real strides in increasing diversity in our intramural program through the Distinguished Scholars Program.
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.
IRP Research Leads to First FDA-Approved Therapy for Merkel Cell Carcinoma
Tuesday, May 4, 2021
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Skin cancers are the most common cancer in the U.S., affecting as many as five million people every year. Yet the rarest of these cancers is also one of the deadliest. Merkel cell carcinoma affects about 3,000 Americans each year, and until recently a lack of effective treatments meant only half of patients survived five years or longer after diagnosis. The median survival was nine months.
This bleak outlook changed radically in 2017 with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of a new immunotherapy drug called avelumab. Developed through a collaboration between IRP researchers and the pharmaceutical company EMD Serono, Inc., and marketed as Bavencio, avelumab was the first treatment approved specifically for Merkel cell carcinoma.
Future Physician-Scientists Spent a Year in IRP Labs
Monday, September 21, 2020
Many doctors not only treat patients directly, but also make valuable contributions to research that will improve medical care in the future. Each one of these talented ‘physician-scientists’ began his or her research career under the guidance of a more senior scientist. At the NIH, the Medical Research Scholars Program (MRSP) provides just such an experience to promising young medical students from all across the United States.
Study Also Reveals Immunotherapy’s Target on Cancer Cells
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
In the 1995 film The Usual Suspects, Kevin Spacey’s con man character famously remarks, “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.” The same could be said of cancer, which somehow persuades the body it is not a threat. Cutting-edge treatments called immunotherapies remove this façade and encourage the immune system to attack cancer cells. New IRP research in mice has demonstrated the promise of a new immunotherapy for treating ovarian cancer and identified a marker on cancer cells that could help clinicians identify patients who are most likely to benefit from the therapy.
Event Spotlights Students Completing Their Ph.D. Research in IRP Labs
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
The NIH provides an extraordinarily rich environment for learning and honing the skills needed to pursue a scientific career. It’s no wonder, then, that Ph.D. students from institutions all across the United States and the rest of the world come here to conduct their dissertation research under the mentorship of the IRP’s many renowned investigators.
Nearly 150 of those students presented the fruits of their scientific work at the NIH’s 16th annual Graduate Student Research Symposium on Thursday, February 20. The insights they have produced on topics from cancer to autoimmune disease to environmental contaminants were supremely impressive and will likely contribute to important improvements in medical care in the future. For anyone who missed this exciting event, read on to learn about a few of the many research projects that were on display.
Exceptional Early-Stage Investigators Push the Boundaries of Translational Research
Thursday, December 5, 2019
Online and print publications are constantly touting momentous discoveries by superstar scientists like CRISPR-Cas9 co-discover Jennifer Doudna or the IRP’s own Kevin Hall, who changed the way we think about weight loss. It can be easy to forget that today’s biomedical pioneers were once young researchers toiling to establish themselves in the competitive environment of modern science.
Each year, a small, exceptionally promising group of scientific up-and-comers become Lasker Clinical Research Scholars through a highly competitive program jointly funded by the NIH and the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation. The program presents early-stage physician-scientists with the opportunity to carry out independent clinical research at the NIH for five to ten years. The 2019 class of Lasker Scholars consists of five extremely talented researchers who are now beginning a critical new phase in their careers. Let’s meet them.