Patrick Hwu, MD
Dr. Hwu’s work has focused on understanding immune responses against cancer. His studies have resulted in the translation of numerous basic immunologic principles to the clinic. His initial research involved studies of gene-modified T-cells, and he demonstrated that T-cells could be modified with novel chimeric receptor genes composed of antibody/T-cell receptors for cancer. He also developed the first methods to gene modify dendritic cells (DCs), which are capable of potently activating T-cells. Introducing genes into DCs is promising for cancer vaccines, and is also a novel method to identify epitopes within candidate antigens. For example, Dr. Hwu identified a novel class II epitope in the melanoma antigen gp100 using gene-transduced DCs. His lab has also evaluated novel cytokines, and he demonstrated that interleukin-21 has antitumor effects in vivo. Recently, he has been evaluating barriers towards development of a successful antitumor immune response. He demonstrated that DCs and tumors can express IDO, an enzyme which was previously shown to inhibit T-cell function by decreasing local levels of tryptophan. Moreover, he has developed novel methods to boost the proliferation and migration of adoptively transferred, tumor reactive T-cells. In murine tumor models, he demonstrated that the combination of T-cells and DCs were significantly more effective compared to either alone, and he is conducting a clinical trial to evaluate this strategy in melanoma patients. Most recently, he has focused on developing a strong innate immune response through the activation of plasmacytoid dendritic cells in order to trigger potent adaptive antitumor immunity.