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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. 

Young J. Kim, M.D., Ph.D

At Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Young J. Kim, M.D., Ph.D is the Amy and Barry Baker Endowed Chair, Co-Leader of Translational Research and Interventional Oncology at Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center, and serves as the Director of Head and Neck Oncology Reserach in the Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Additionally, he holds a faculty position as an Associate Professor of Head and Neck Surgery in Otolaryngology. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, Dr. Kim was an Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins Hospital with Bloomberg Kimmel Institute of Cancer Immunotherapy in Baltimore, MD.

Dr. Kim received his M.D. and Ph.D. in Molecular Pathology from the University of California, San Diego in La Jolla, CA. There he studied the role of selectin molecules in migration of human cells through the endothelium under Dr. Ajit Varki. His postdoctoral fellowship was with Dr. Owen Witte at UCLA, where he developed non-invasive molecular imaging modalities of endogenous T-cell trafficking into the developing tumor.