Fotis Asimakopoulos, MB, BChir, PhD
Photo: Fotis Asimakopoulos
Elected 2023

My lab has a core interest in modeling multiple myeloma, a tumor of antibody-producer plasma cells and the second most common blood cancer. Myeloma is not only a cancer type with growing incidence in the general population, but also a diagnosis prevalent in physically or socially vulnerable groups, such as older people, Americans of  African descent and Veterans exposed to chemicals (such as Agent Orange) during military service. Myeloma is arguably one of the most challenging cancers to model in the mouse. My group has employed several innovative approaches, firstly using lineage-specific, Avian Leukosis Virus-mediated in vivo gene transfer and more recently through conditional activation of N-Ras in the germinal center, in collaboration with Jing Zhang at UW-Madison, and Marta Chesi and Leif Bergsagel at Mayo. These approaches have generated myeloma models that recapitulate human high-risk multiple myeloma, a subset of proliferative, relapse-prone myeloma that remains poorly controlled by most current therapies and presents an area of unmet clinical need. My lab also has a major focus on the tumor microenvironment in myeloma, the stromal reaction, the extracellular matrix and the pathways through which matrix remodeling shapes the polarization of antigen-presenting cells in the tumor microenvironment. Stemming from the latter work, we are pursuing gene transfer approaches to generate novel cancer vaccines that harness this immune cell- matrix crosstalk.