Research by Young J. Kim, M.D., Ph.D., focuses on cancer immunology and immunotherapy. For the past decade, his research team has studied the tumor microenvironment (TME), by specifically infiltrating T-cells, myeloid cells, and Natural Killer cells that can regulate the TME. His lab has demonstrated the mechanism of adaptive immune resistance, which implicates the need to combine cancer vaccines with PD-1 blocking agents.
The team has studied the immunosuppressive STAT3 signaling in the TME, and were the first to demonstrate that STAT3 signaling played an important role in human myeloid derived suppressor cell (MDSC) immunosuppressive function. Their work demonstrated that the monocytic MDSC possesses greater T-cell immunosuppressive capability.
The lab has also developed STING agonists as a potent cancer adjuvant, which led to a Phase I STING Agonist Trial at Johns Hopkins Medicine. They are currently studying other immune checkpoint inhibitors to include TIGIT, NKG2A, CTLA4, and LAG3 in human head and neck cancer.
In addition, they have recently initiated efforts to characterize the neoantigen landscape in HNSCC to develop neoantigen-based cancer vaccines.