The Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy has established an unprecedented collaboration that brings together more than 300 of the country's leading immunologists at top cancer research institutions nationwide, all dedicated to a single mission: harnessing the power of the immune system to fight — and cure — cancer. By encouraging cooperation, data sharing and industry partnerships, the Parker Institute enables real collaboration, accelerating ambitious research to deliver new immunotherapies engineered to save lives.
The Parker Institute works with researchers in a variety of ways to empower them to do their best science. The Institute provides programmatic support for our talented group of researchers at Dana-Farber.
The Parker Institute also provides institutional support to six academic centers including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; Stanford Medicine; the University of California, Los Angeles; the University of California, San Francisco; the University of Pennsylvania; the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center; and the Gladstone Institutes. The Institute also supports outstanding investigators including Robert Schreiber, PhD, of Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Nina Bhardwaj, MD, PhD, of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Phil Greenberg, MD, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
The Parker Institute believes that their multifaceted approach to bring the best and brightest minds in basic and translational research will accelerate the development of cancer immunotherapies with the greatest chance of impact on patients. Funding for the Institute comes from a $250 million grant from the Parker Foundation, established by tech entrepreneur and philanthropist Sean Parker.
By providing the resources and central coordination needed to advance research objectives, the Parker Institute empowers its team of scientists to pursue their boldest research ambitions. To date, the Parker Institute's research agenda has focused on "best-in-class" T-Cells, checkpoint blockade response, tumor antigen discovery, and tumor microenvironment.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is home to leading investigators who have made key discoveries regarding the immune response to cancer. Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy (PICI) scientists at Dana-Farber are working collaboratively together and within the PICI network to better understand the tumor microenvironment across cancer types. The intent is to translate these basic discoveries to the clinic as impactful immunotherapies to fight cancer and improve patient outcomes.
PICI at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute promotes innovation and collaboration in order to advance our understanding of the immune response to cancer and develop novel immunotherapy strategies for the benefit of our patients.
Areas of Scientific Interest
Discovering novel therapeutic targets and their mechanism of action
Investigating the tumor immune microenvironment to better understand response, resistance, and toxicity of immunotherapy
Developing next-generation cellular therapies
Advancing vaccines as a platform for combination therapies
F. Steven Hodi, MD
An internationally recognized leader in developing immune therapy and melanoma therapeutics, F. Stephen Hodi, MD, is particularly known for the clinical development of checkpoint inhibitors. He led the first human trial of ipilimumab, which blocks the CTLA-4 checkpoint, and later led the Phase III registration trial, which was the first study to show a survival advantage for a melanoma drug, and which led to FDA approval of ipilimumab. The dramatic and long-lasting responses seen with this agent provided proof that reactivating the suppressed immune system of cancer patients could be enormously beneficial.
Subsequently, Hodi has continued as a key investigator in the clinical development of the second family of checkpoint inhibitors, which block PD-1 and PD-L1. This work has not only changed the paradigm for treating melanoma but has also been applied to improve outcomes in many other malignancies, such as lung and kidney cancer. He has also led pioneering, investigator-initiated trials combining immune checkpoint blockade with cytokines and the first combination of immune checkpoint blockade with anti-angiogenesis agents. Hodi is also known for his work in treating KIT-mutated melanoma.
Elizabeth Mittendorf, MD, PhD
Elizabeth Mittendorf, MD, PhD, is the Robert and Karen Hale Distinguished Chair in Surgical Oncology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and director of the Breast Immuno-Oncology Program at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center. She focuses her clinical and laboratory efforts on the study of breast cancer with a specific interest in immunotherapy.
Mittendorf has been the principal investigator on numerous trials investigating cancer vaccines, including the Phase III PRESENT study evaluating CD8 T-cell-eliciting vaccine in the adjuvant setting, and an investigator-initiated multicenter phase II trial investigating vaccination in combination with trastuzumab in HER2-positive patients. She is also the principal investigator on two investigator-initiated pre-surgical studies evaluating immune checkpoint blockade agents in breast cancer patients.
The current focus of her laboratory work is determining the impact of standard and experimental therapies on immunologic aspects of the tumor microenvironment to inform rational trials of immunotherapeutic agents in breast cancer. She is also investigating novel targets for vaccine strategies.
Kai Wucherpfennig, MD, PhD
Kai Wucherpfennig, MD, PhD, is an internationally recognized leader in T cell biology and cancer immunology. His lab has developed several novel strategies for cancer immunotherapy that are being evaluated in clinical trials. He is particularly interested in immunotherapy strategies that engage both cytotoxic lymphocyte populations, CD8 T cells, and NK cells. An important evasion mechanism is the proteolytic shedding of the immunostimulatory MICA and MICB proteins that serve as ligands for the activating NKG2D receptor on all cytotoxic lymphocytes, including CD8 T cells and NK cells. His lab developed a cancer vaccine targeting MICA/B which retains efficacy even against tumors with important resistance mutations due to the coordinated action of CD4 T cells and NK cells.
Wucherpfennig is Chair of the Department of Cancer Immunology and Virology and Director of the Center for Cancer Immunotherapy Research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. He is the Nancy Lurie Marks Professor of Neurology in the Field of Medical Oncology; Professor of Neurology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School; a Professor of Immunology at Harvard Medical School; and an Associate Member of the Broad Institute at MIT and Harvard.