Immunologic Checkpoint Blockade Dream Team - Stand Up To Cancer

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SU2C–Cancer Research Institute Cancer Immunology Dream Team: Immunologic Checkpoint Blockade and Adoptive Cell Transfer in Cancer Therapy

Grant Term: March 2013–February 2018

The goal of this SU2C–Cancer Research Institute (CRI) Cancer Immunology Dream Team is to induce antitumor responses in immune cells called T cells. The team has taken two approaches to this: blocking the mechanisms that inhibit T cell activity (thereby allowing the T cells to expand, infiltrate, and kill cancer cells) and generating large quantities of T cells in the laboratory, enhancing their cancer-killing abilities, and then transferring them back to patients.

Supported by:


Cancer immunotherapy is based on getting a patient’s own immune system to attack the cancer. This SU2C–CRI Cancer Immunology Dream Team has worked on two cancer immunotherapy approaches.

In one approach, the team uses drugs called checkpoint inhibitors to foil the “tricks” that cancers rely on to escape natural immune cell attack. In the other approach, known as adoptive cell transfer (ACT), the team takes patient’s own immune cells to the lab, makes these cells into more efficient cancer killing machines, and then returns the cells to the patient.

Work by members of this Dream Team contributed to the 2017 FDA approval of two new checkpoint inhibitors, pembrolizumab and nivolumab. The team analyzed tumor samples to determine how checkpoint inhibitors work and to identify biomarkers―molecules that can be measured in patients’ blood, tumor samples, or other biological specimens to predict which patients will respond to immune therapy.

To make better T cells for ACT, the team studies the antigens―the substances that trigger an immune response―expressed by tumor cells to find out how best to improve the efficiency of the T cell attack.


The top scientists and researchers on the SU2C–CRI Cancer Immunology Dream Team come from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines, which leads them to great insights upon collaboration. Learn more about the SU2C–CRI Cancer Immunology Dream Team.

Dream Team Members

James P. Allison, PhD
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles

Drew M. Pardoll, MD, PhD
Johns Hopkins University Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center

Cassian Yee, MD
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

James Heath, PhD
California Institute of Technology
Principal Investigator

Ton Schumacher, PhD
Netherlands Cancer Institute
Principal Investigator

Robert E. Behrens
REB Investments, Inc.

Debra Black
Melanoma Research Alliance

Valerie Guild
AIM at Melanoma

Jonathan Simons, MD
Prostate Cancer Foundation

Mary Elizabeth Williams

James Mancuso, PhD
University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
Project Manager

“The patient’s own immune system can be harnessed to treat some cancers. The SU2C–CRI Dream Team grant will help develop this mode of treatment to more broadly benefit patients.”

Antoni Ribas, MD, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles


Stand Up To Cancer’s research projects are designed to foster collaborative, swift translational research. The hallmarks of these efforts include rigorous application and selection procedures, sufficient funding to allow scientists to focus on the objectives of the grant, and reviews by senior scientists every six months. These reviews help the investigators capitalize on the latest findings, address potential roadblocks, and collaboratively evolve as the science requires. Please click on the link to see summaries of research results so far for the SU2C–CRI Cancer Immunology Dream Team.



Neoadjuvant PD-1 Blockade in Resectable Lung Cancer
Forde PM, Chaft JE, Anagnostou V, et al. (2018)
New England Journal of Medicine 378:1976-1986.
SLC45A2: A Melanoma Antigen with High Tumor Selectivity and Reduced Potential for Autoimmune Toxicity
Park J, Talukder AH, Lim SA, et al. (2017)
Cancer Immunology Research 5:618-29.
Tracking the Fate and Origin of Clinically Relevant Adoptively Transferred CD8+ T Cells in Vivo
Chapuis UG, Desmarais C, Emerson R, et al. (2017)
Science Immunology 2 (8).


Cancer clinical trials allow researchers to study innovative and potentially life-saving new treatments. The goal is to find treatments that are better than what’s currently available; in fact, the therapies offered to today’s cancer patients were almost all studied and made possible by people participating in clinical trials. But many cancer clinical trials aren’t completed because not enough people take part.

At, you’ll find clinical trial information, answers to common questions, and a free clinical trial finder tool.



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