Yun Ji, Ph.D.
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.
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.
Selected Key Publications
Generation of clinical-grade CD19-specific CAR-modified CD8+ memory stem cells for the treatment of human B-cell malignancies.Blood. 128: 519-28, 2016. [ Journal Article ]
- Semin Immunol. 28: 45-53, 2016. [ Journal Article ]
miR-155 augments CD8+ T cell anti-tumor activity in lymphoreplete hosts by enhancing responsiveness to homeostatic γc cytokines.Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A . 112(2): 476-81, 2015. [ Journal Article ]
- Immunity. 38: 742-53, 2013. [ Journal Article ]
- 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.
|Neal Lacey||Postbaccalaureate Fellow (IRTA/CRTA)|