AUGUST 5, 2020, New York— Ludwig Cancer Research congratulates Ludwig Lausanne’s Ping-Chih Ho on his receipt of a CRI Lloyd J. Old STAR award in recognition of his contributions to the field of immunometabolism, which explores how the metabolic adaptations of tumors influence the anti-cancer immune response and how they might be circumvented or disrupted for therapy. Established by the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), the Lloyd J. Old STAR Program provides a grant of $1.25 million over five years to mid-career scientists engaged in highly original research of potentially transformative value to cancer immunology and immunotherapy.
“I am grateful to CRI for this generous award and its expression of confidence in my laboratory’s efforts,” said Ho. “A better understanding of tumor immunometabolism could help us broaden the applicability and maximize the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy while reducing its attendant risks. I am hopeful that the STAR award, in combination with Ludwig’s ongoing support for my work, will help my laboratory identify and develop new strategies for the treatment of cancer.”
Ho has made several important contributions to the field of immunometabolism and cancer immunology. He and his team discovered in 2019, for example, that melanoma tumors expressing a metabolic enzyme known as UCP2 draw key anti-tumor immune cells into their microenvironment and are therefore relatively more susceptible to an immunotherapy known as checkpoint blockade. They also showed that an existing diabetes drug can prompt the production of UCP2 in these tumors, making resistant tumors susceptible to the immunotherapy.
More recently, Ho’s laboratory described a mechanism by which regulatory T cells (Tregs), which attenuate immune reactions and suppress autoimmune disease, adapt their metabolism to thrive in the harsh microenvironment of the tumor. That mechanism, they found, is engaged by Tregs that reside in tumors—where they can impede immunotherapy—but not by their counterparts in healthy tissues. Ho and his team showed that an antibody against the cell-surface protein CD36 selectively targets intratumoral Tregs without affecting Tregs in other tissues. They also showed that its use in combination with checkpoint blockade could enhance the effects of the immunotherapy in a mouse model of melanoma.
Ho will use the STAR award to advance his exploration of immunometabolic phenomena and their roles in the survival and progression of tumors. He also plans to harness those discoveries to engineer more robust immune cells for cellular cancer therapies.
Ho is an Associate Member of the Lausanne Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research and an Associate Professor at the University of Lausanne. He has received the Swiss Bridge Award and the Cancer Research Institute-CLIP investigator award and was named an EMBO Young Investigator in 2019 for his studies on immunometabolism.