CTRC researchers take immunology research to next level

SAN ANTONIO (May 11, 2015) — Tyler Curiel, M.D., M.P.H., an oncologist and immunologist at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio, is no stranger to news coverage. There’s his own research, his rescue of irreplaceable cancer cell lines in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and the occasional 100-mile foot race. But he credits part of his success to the work of the trainees in his lab, who in turn credit their own growth to his inspiration.

This past weekend Dr. Curiel took four members of his lab, three of them M.D./Ph.D. students, back to New Orleans to give talks at Immunology 2015 — the largest immunology meeting in the world.

It’s unusual to have such young scientists dominate a major meeting, but Dr. Curiel isn’t surprised.

“The team is making remarkable progress on many fronts,” Dr. Curiel said. “Thanks to their dedication and hard work, we continue to enjoy this kind of success that will help lead to insights into better treatments for cancers and autoimmunity.”

One of them, Vinh Dao, also had a plenary talk on the drug rapamycin at a major international meeting in March, the World Immune Regulation Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

“We are studying rapamycin as a potential human cancer prevention agent,” Dao said. “Although approved as an immunosuppressive drug, we found that rapamycin could boost certain aspects of immunity to prevent cancer.”

The drug’s approval as for other diseases also means it has already cleared several expensive and time-consuming regulatory hurdles, streamlining opportunities for further research.

Dao is a third-year graduate student in the M.D./Ph.D. program. His fellow M.D./Ph.D. student presenters in New Orleans are Curtis Clark and Justin Drerup. Also presenting from the CTRC was research scientist Vincent Hurez, while two more Curiel lab trainees gave poster presentations: M.D. candidate Yang Liu and postdoctoral fellow Harshita Gupta.


The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit www.ctrc.net.

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