Yun Ji, Ph.D.

Yun Ji, Ph.D.
Staff Scientist

Dr. Ji is interested in the mechanism of CD8+ T cell development and differentiation. Her research focuses on the identification and characterization of key transcription factors, miRNAs, and epigenetic modulators essential for CD8+ T cell activation,
differentiation, and function, with a goal of improving T cell-based immunotherapy against cancer.

Areas of Expertise

1) T cell differentiation
2) adoptive T cell immunotherapy
3) microRNA biology
4) epigenetics

Contact Info

Yun Ji, Ph.D.
Center for Cancer Research
National Cancer Institute
Building 10, Room 3E3248
Bethesda, MD 20892-1203
Ph: 301-451-6947

T cell-based immunotherapies have emerged as potent and effective treatments for patients with advanced cancer. Retrospective analyses across multiple clinical trials have revealed that the effectiveness of this type of treatment is critically dependent on the ability of transferred cells to undergo robust proliferation, release high amounts of inflammatory cytokines and persist for long-term. However, the majority of transferred T cells rapidly lose their proliferative and effector capacities following adoptive transfer as they enter into a state of functional exhaustion. Significant efforts have been dedicated to identify approaches to effectively maintain T cell fitness and prevent their exhaustion. We found that CD8+ T cell features can be remarkably improved by genetic manipulation, such as by overexpressing transcription factor Id3 (Ji Y, et al. Nature Immunol, 2011), or by ectopic expression of microRNA miR-155 in tumor-specific CD8+ T cells (Ji Y, et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2015). These proof-of-concept studies suggest that the efficacy of adoptive cell therapy can be greatly improved in a cell-intrinsic manner by regulating the level of transcription factors, microRNAs, or epigenetic modulators essential for T cell fitness. We aim to identify and characterize factors involved in T cell development and differentiation, bearing the goal of translating the results of basic research into clinical trials for cancer patients.

NIH Scientific Focus Areas:
Cancer Biology, Cell Biology, Immunology, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry

Selected Key Publications

  1. Sabatino M, Hu J, Sommariva M, Gautam S, Fellowes V, Hocker JD, Dougherty S, Qin H, Klebanoff CA, Fry TJ, Gress RE, Kochenderfer JN, Stroncek DF, Ji Y, Gattinoni L.
    Blood. 128: 519-28, 2016. [ Journal Article ]
  2. Ji Y, Hocker JD, Gattinoni L.
    Semin Immunol. 28: 45-53, 2016. [ Journal Article ]
  3. Ji Y, Wrzesinski C, Yu Z, Hu J, Gautam S, Hawk NV, Telford WG, Palmer DC, Franco Z, Sukumar M, Roychoudhuri R, Clever D, Klebanoff CA, Surh CD, Waldmannd, TA, Restifo, NP, Gattinoni L.
    Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A . 112(2): 476-81, 2015. [ Journal Article ]
  4. Dudda JC*, Salaun B*, Ji Y*; Palmer DC, Monnot GC; Merck E, Boudousquie C, Utzschneider D, Escobar TM, Perret R, Muljo SA, Hebeisen M, Rufer N, Zehn D, Donda A, Restifo NP, Held W, Gattinoni L, Romero PJ. *equally contributed
    Immunity. 38: 742-53, 2013. [ Journal Article ]
  5. Ji Y, Pos Z, Rao M, Klebanoff C, Yu Z, Sukumar M, Reger R, Palmer D, Borman Z, Muranski P, Wang E, Schrump D, Marincola F, Restifo NP, Gattinoni L.
    Nature Immunol. 12: 1230-7, 2011. [ Journal Article ]

Dr. Yun Ji obtained her Ph.D. from Iowa State University in 2004. Following a postdoctoral fellowship at Georgetown University, she joined the National Cancer Institute in 2007. In 2016, Dr. Ji was appointed as a Staff Scientist in the Experimental Transplantation and Immunology Branch, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute.

Name Position
Neal Lacey Postbaccalaureate Fellow (IRTA/CRTA)