The scientific goal of the Cancer Immunology Program at the Hollings Cancer Center is to understand the basic mechanisms by which the immune system is regulated in cancer and to apply these discoveries to the development of new immunotherapies.
Professor and Chair of Microbiology & Immunology | College of Medicine
Dr. Zihai Li has served as the Cancer Immunology Program Leader since 2010. He holds the Sally Abney Rose Chair in Stem Cell Biology & Therapy, which is supported by the South Carolina SmartState® Center of Economic Excellence. His research team has made seminal contributions to understanding the immunological properties of heat shock proteins in cancer immunotherapy and immune tolerance.
Medical oncologist John M. Wrangle, M.D., MPH and Mark P. Rubinstein, Ph.D. recently collaborated to design a novel immunotherapy for patients with incurable non-small cell lung cancer. This first-in-human, investigator-initiated phase 1b/2 trial combines the PD1-inhibitor nivolumab with an investigational drug—IL-15 complexes known as ALT-803 (Altor Bioscience; Miramar, FL).
The initial rationale for this clinical study stems from work done by Rubinstein as a postdoctoral fellow, where he co-discovered that complexing the potent T-cell growth factor IL-15 to its soluble receptor makes it 100-fold more biologically active. Wrangle and Rubinstein saw potential in pairing one of the most promising of the approved immune checkpoint inhibitors, a PD-1 inhibitor, with IL-15 complexes.