My long-term goals as a translational and academic researcher are to translate novel aspects of immunology to improve treatments for patients with hematologic malignancies. I have extensive experience in concepts and techniques in the field of immunobiology, and specifically NK cell biology. During my post post-doctoral training in the laboratory of Dr. Jeffrey Miller at University of Minnesota we described the role of a metalloproteinase protein ADAM17 in regulating the expression of CD16 and CD62L, two key proteins which play an important role in the antibody dependent cell cytotoxicity (ADCC) and trafficking function of human NK cells (Romee et al, Blood 2013). My work with Dr. Todd Fehniger at Washington University led to the discovery of human cytokine induced memory-like (CIML) NK cells induced by brief activation with cytokines (IL-12, IL-15 and IL-18) (Romee et al, Blood 2012). These memory-like NK cells have enhanced anti-tumor responses (direct cell cytotoxicity and antibody dependent cell cytotoxicity), proliferate and persist longer after adoptive transfer in animal models, making them attractive for cellular immunotherapy for advanced cancer patients.
I led the first-in-human clinical trial of memory-like NK cells in patients with advanced AML and MDS. We demonstrated that the adoptive transfer of memory-like NK cells in these patients was safe and encouragingly was associated with very promising responses (>50% CR / CRi in relapsed / refractory AML patients) (Romee et al, Science Translational Medicine, 2016).
At Dana Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) and Harvard Medical School, my goal is to expand the use of memory-like NK cell based studies in patients with advanced hematologic malignancies and also to test them in combination with other novel agents to potentially further enhance their anti-tumor activity. Furthermore, I lead our haploidentical donor transplant efforts to broaden the donor availability for patients with otherwise no traditionally matched donors and also to use this as a platform for incorporating novel NK cell based immunotherapies.