Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD
Dr. Ferris’s laboratory is focused on identification of immune evasion and exploitation by head and neck cancer (HNC) cells, in order to facilitate improvements in tumor immunotherapy. He has also contributed importantly to our understanding of defective tumor HLA antigen processing and impaired T cell survival in preventing lysis of tumor cells in HNC patients. Downregulation of antigen processing machinery (APM) components in HNC cells is a mechanism of resistance to T cell recognition in vitro and in vivo, and is likely a major obstacle to success of cancer vaccines. His group also demonstrated the existence of a natural HPV-specific T cell response in HPV+ HNC patients and mechanisms of HNC cell escape from T cell lysis. Dr. Ferris has eluciated the immune mechanisms, including NK and DC activation by FcgammaR stimulated interactions and induction of adaptive immunity in cetuximab treated cancer patients. More recently he has demonstrated the role of regulatory T cells (Treg) and suppressive co-inhibitory CTLA-4 and PD-1+ infiltrating lymphocytes in the tumor microenvironment, which are being targeted in multiple phase II and III trials which he is leading.