The Division of Immunotherapy in the Department of Surgery is leading the way to improve our understanding of the role of immunotherapy in the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

What sets apart immunotherapy from other fields?

This breakthrough science harnesses our bodies' own immune system to attack cancer and other diseases. In the Department of Surgery at the University of Louisville, we are committed to the Division of Immunotherapy and our innovative team of researchers who are meeting the everyday challenges to discover solutions to many medical obstacles. The faculty members in this Division are leaders in the field.

Jun Yan, MD, PhD, Director

Dr. Yan's current major research interests are to understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which yeast-derived polysaccharide β-glucan modulates immunosuppressive myeloid cells to enhance antitumor immunotherapy using mouse tumor models and human cancer patients. In addition, this laboratory has recently discovered that γδT cells are the major cellular source of inflammatory cytokine IL-17 in psoriatic skin lesions and human colon cancer. This line of research investigates the roles of innate γδT cells in health and diseases. They are interested in γδT17 cell development, metabolism, and signaling pathways that regulate their activation and function. The third major area of interest in Dr. Yan's laboratory involves the roles of B cells in the regulation of autoreactive T cell activation and tolerance using a murine systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) model as well as human lung cancer. They are interested in B cell repertoire and how T-B cell collaboration in cancer shapes antitumor T cell response. Knowledge gained from these studies has led them to develop effective vaccines for cancer and autoimmune diseases. Read more about Dr. Yan.

Zhong-bin Deng, PhD

Dr. Deng’s research focuses on the role and underlying pathways of the inflammatory tumor microenvironment during colon and breast cancer progression, metastasis formation, and anti-cancer therapy. We are interested in increasing efficacy of conventional anti-cancer chemotherapies and immunotherapies mediated by exosome-like nanoparticles transporting chemotherapeutic agents and siRNA in vivo. He studies the regulation of tumor exosomes, gut microbiota, and inflammation in obesity and obesity-related tumor development, especially colon cancer and colitis. His research program encompasses studies on cancer immunotherapy and on obesity-related inflammation. Read more about Dr. Deng

Chuanlin Ding, PhD

Dr. Ding's broad research interests are in the areas of tumor-mediated immunosuppression and the roles of B cell regulation in autoimmune diseases as well as in tumor. Currently, the main focus of his research is to better understand the mechanisms by which tumor- and/or host-derived inflammation following cancer chemotherapy regulates the differentiation and functional changes of immunosuppressive myeloid cells. He is also interested in the development of new strategies for tumor immunotherapy. Specifically, he is investigating the roles of β-glucan, a safe and potent immunological adjuvant, in regulating myeloid cell differentiation and function. Read more about Dr. Ding.

Hongying Hao, MD, PhD

Dr. Hao has a longstanding interest in cancer research, spanning from basic studies to translational explorations. Her current studies include investigations on the mechanisms of tumor-derived exosomes in promoting melanoma progression and the use of tumor-derived exosomes and sentinel lymph node biomarkers as a prognostic approach for melanoma. She has been funded through the National Science Foundation AWARE: ACCESS (Accelerating Women and Underrepresented Entrepreneurs: Accelerate Entrepreneurial Success) program, The Kentucky Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network (KBRIN) Next Generation project, and as a Multiple Principal Investigator of an award funded through the hub for Expediting Commercialization, Innovation, Transition, and Entrepreneurship hub (a program funded by the NIH REACH program). She was also a coinvestigator on award from the Melanoma Research Foundation to develop a prognostic scoring system in node-negative patients and an award from the University of Louisville Clinical Translational Science and Innovation Program to develop a prognostic scoring system incorporating gene signatures in melanoma patients with positive sentinel lymph nodes. Read more about Dr. Hao.

Robert A. Mitchell, PhD

Dr. Mitchell's laboratory work focuses on characterizing the functional and mechanistic contributions of macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) family member-dependent tumor progression. One active project involves the study of MIF and its only known family member, D-dopachrome tautomerase (D-DT) as they synergistically promote the growth and survival of human non-small cell lung carcinoma focusing on the AMPK and p53 tumor suppressor pathways (Brock et al. Negative regulation of AMPK activity by MIF family members in NSCLC. J. Biol. Chem. 287(45):37917-25; Brock et al. MIF Family Members Cooperatively Inhibit p53 Expression and Activity. PLoS One 16;9(6):e99795). Read more about Dr. Mitchell.

Kavitha Yaddanapudi, MS, PhD

Dr. Yaddanapudi's lab focuses on developing novel immune-based strategies for the treatment of cancer. Early-stage research in the lab has highlighted the potential use of embryonic stem cell antigens as a novel immunotherapeutic approach to vaccinate against cancer. Read more about Dr. Yaddanapudi.

Learn more about our research

 Brown Cancer Center Creates Owen’s Wish Fund for Cancer Immunotherapy Research

Chair of the Department of Surgery, Dr. Kelly McMasters, announced on October 17, the Owen’s Wish Fund for Cancer Immunotherapy Research of the J. Graham Brown Cancer Center.

His son Owen died February 15, 2016 following a courageous four-year battle with leukemia.


"Owen died of leukemia knowing that the science that could have cured him of his cancer was right at our doorstep," McMasters said. "Owen’s wish was that no other children (or adults) would have to endure the ravages of cancer and its treatment without a meaningful chance to be cured."

Cancer immunotherapy has revolutionized the treatment of many types of cancer by harnessing the power of the human body's immune system to eradicate cancer. The Owen’s Wish Fund will allow the Brown Cancer Center to develop a world-class group of scientists and physicians dedicated to advancing the field of cancer immunotherapy and providing state-of-the-art immunotherapy care for patients in our region.

To donate, please visit the UofL Brown Cancer Center.