Center for Immunotherapy Leadership
Members, PIs & Clinical Faculty
Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD
Executive Director, Center for Immunotherapy
Chair, Department of Gynecologic Oncology
The M. Steven Piver Professor of Gynecologic Oncology
Co-Leader, Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy Program
Thinle Chodon, MD, PhD
Yeong “Christopher” Choi, PhD
Robert Fenstermaker, MD
Francisco Hernandez-Ilizaliturri, MD
John Kane III, MD
Richard Koya, MD, PhD
Kelvin Lee, MD
Junko Matsuzaki, PhD
Philip McCarthy, MD
Chukwumere E. Nwogu, MD
Roberto Pili, MD
Thomas Schwaab, MD
Joseph Skitzki, MD
Takemasa Tsuji, PhD
Eunice Wang, MD
Paul Wallace, PhD
Sacha Gnjatic, PhD
Danila Valmori, PhD
Maha Ayyoub, PhD
Elke Jäger, MD
Hiroyoshi Nishikawa, MD, PhD
Shimon Sakaguchi, MD, PhD
Cassian Yee, MD
An organizational and leadership structure has been created to maximize the potential of the Center for Immunotherapy to achieve its translational and clinical research objectives.
- Cancer Immunotherapy Trials Network (CITN)
- CVC Trials Network – Cancer Research Institute
- Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium of the Cancer Research Institute
- University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI)
Membership of the Center for Immunotherapy is drawn from clinical investigators at RPCI who have a strong focus on cancer immunotherapy. Members are focused on cancers of the breast, ovary, esophagus, colon, liver, pancreas, hematological (leukemias, myeloma, and lymphomas), brain, lungs, soft tissues (muscle), and skin (melanoma). In addition, resources have been committed towards additional direct recruitment of translational researchers to the Center for Immunotherapy.
Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, is the Executive Director of the Center for Immunotherapy. Dr. Odunsi is Chair of the Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Professor of Oncology at RPCI; the M. Steven Piver endowed Professor of Gynecologic Oncology at RPCI; and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University at Buffalo. Dr. Odunsi is also the Co-Leader of the Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy Core Center Support Grant Program (CCSG).
Dr. Odunsi received his PhD from the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, UK. He completed his residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, and sub-specialty fellowship in gynecologic oncology at RPCI. Dr. Odunsi’s research interests include understanding the mechanisms of immune recognition and tolerance in human ovarian cancer, and translation of the findings into clinical trials of active specific immunotherapy. Dr. Odunsi has developed and implemented protocols for multi-institutional immunotherapy clinical trials under the umbrella of the Cancer Vaccine Collaborative Program.
The Cancer Vaccine Collaborative Program, which was formed in 2001 through a partnership of the Cancer Research Institute and the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, is a 19-site clinical trials network in the United States and abroad. As director of the Cancer Vaccine Collaborative Program in the U.S., Dr. Odunsi is a member of the Coordinating and Review Committee responsible for strategic planning, protocol development, accrual monitoring and intervention.
Dr. Odunsi is also Chair of the Immunological Monitoring Committee of the Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium. He is responsible for the overall strategic direction of the Proficiency Panels for the Cancer Immunotherapy Consortium. Recent Panel activities include ELISPOT, intra-cellular cytokine and mutineer panels.
Scientific Advisory Committee
The Scientific Advisory Committee provides strategic guidance to the Center for Immunotherapy. This Committee is chaired by Kelvin Lee, MD, Jacobs Family Chair of Immunology at RPCI, Vice Chair of the Department of Medicine and Co-Leader of the Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy CCSG Program. Dr. Lee is an accomplished national researcher in the immunology and biology of multiple myeloma, the second most common blood cancer. The other Committee members are as follows:
Candace Johnson, PhD, is President & CEO of Roswell Park. Additionally, Dr. Johnson is Cancer Center Director, Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics, the Wallace Family Chair for Translational Research, and Professor of Oncology at RPCI. She serves on several editorial boards and as Associate Editor for Molecular Pharmacology and Oncology. She has published more than 150 peer-reviewed papers and has had continuous National Cancer Institute grant support for her laboratory since 1979.
Nina Bhardwaj, MD, PhD, Professor of Medicine, Pathology, and Dermatology at New York University. She also serves as the Director of the Tumor Vaccine Program. Her research is focused on understanding the biology of human dendritic cells (DCs) in cancer and viral infections, and exploiting the potential of DCs as therapeutic vaccines. This work has earned her a number of honors, including the Doris Duke Distinguished Clinical Scientist Award, the Burroughs Wellcome Clinical Scientist Award and Alpha Omega Alpha Distinguished Alumna Award.
Alexander Knuth, MD, serves as Chair for Internal Medicine and Oncology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He serves as Head of the Department of Oncology at the University Hospital Zurich. Over the past 20 years, Professor Knuth and colleagues have led clinically-driven research and development programs aimed at establishing novel immune-based approaches such as active and passive immunization strategies for the treatment of cancer. He also serves as a member of the Scientific Advisory Council of the Cancer Research Institute.
Protul Shrikant, PhD, Professor in the Department of Research at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Shrikant has an extensive record in undertaking in vivo immunological investigations and a keen interest in understanding the cellular basis for tumor tolerance and immunity. Dr. Shrikant was one of the first to demonstrate that the host metabolic energy status governs T cell tolerance and immunity. He is engaged in studies to determine the molecular basis for effector and/or memory cell fate determination of CD8+ T cells. Dr. Shrikant is a nationally recognized expert in in vivo immunological investigations, and has served on several National Institutes of Health study sections.
Daniel Powell, Jr., PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor within the Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania, and Director of the new Clinical Tumor Tissue Facility at Penn. Dr. Powell is recognized for his extensive experience in tumor vaccines and adoptive lymphocyte immunotherapy, and was recruited from the National Cancer Institute by Penn's Ovarian Cancer Research Center in late 2007. At the Surgery Branch at the National Cancer Institute, working with Dr. Steven Rosenberg, he developed novel combinatorial approaches for tumor vaccination, investigated the role of immunosuppressive regulatory T cells in cancer and applied adoptive T cell immunotherapy for the treatment of patients with metastatic melanoma. The Powell Lab has developed a series of chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) that confer T cells with the MHC-independent specificity of a tumor antigen-specific antibody and potent T cell activity delivered by TCR and costimulatory domains. The Powell Lab employs the CAR approach to test the function of novel costimulatory signals in anti-tumor immunity and pioneered the use of universal immune receptors as a novel platform for CAR screening and for the tailoring of antigen-specific T cells for simultaneous or sequential targeting of cancer antigens.
Lawrence Lum, MD, is Karmanos Cancer Institute’s Scientific Director of Immunotherapy and Bone Marrow Transplant. The Karmanos Immunotherapy Team that Dr. Lum leads is the only one in the United States specializing in a treatment that combines cell and antibody-based therapy to help “clean up” remaining cancerous cells and prevent a relapse after the patient has gone through chemotherapy. In a clinical trial begun in 2002, Dr. Lum and his team report the average overall survival rates for women with metastatic breast cancer who received immunotherapy are 2 – 3 times that of similar patients who received other therapies. Those who know Dr. Lum see a generous mentor to young scientists and a man with great enthusiasm for his work who is the first to recognize the breast cancer battle is a team effort.