Ludwig Lausanne’s Ping-Chih Ho received a Cancer Research Institute CRI Lloyd J. Old STAR award in August 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 that molecular chatter can be disrupted for cancer therapy. In 2019, for example, Ping-Chih and his colleagues discovered that melanoma tumors expressing a metabolic enzyme known as UCP2 draw key anti-tumor immune cells into their microenvironment, making them more susceptible to checkpoint blockade immunotherapy. They also identified a diabetes drug rosiglitazone, that spurs UCP2 expression, making resistant tumors susceptible to checkpoint blockade. More recently Ping-Chih and his team showed that blocking the cell-surface protein CD36 selectively depletes suppressive immune cells known as regulatory T cells within the tumor microenvironment without affecting their counterparts in other tissues. In October, they showed that metabolic stress in the tumor microenvironment hampers antitumor responses in tumor-infiltrating CD8 T cells by disrupting their mitochondrial fitness. These findings could be exploited to boost the effects of checkpoint blockade in a mouse model of melanoma. The STAR award grants $1.25 million over five years to mid-career scientists engaged in highly original research of potentially transformative value to cancer immunology and immunotherapy.
This article appeared in the December 2020 issue of Ludwig Link. Click here to download a PDF (1 MB).