December 4, 2017
Yuchen Fan has been awarded the 2017 Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship and is first author on a major research article in Nano Letters.

Yuchen Fan, a PhD candidate in the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, has been awarded the 2017 Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship and is first author on a major research article in Nano Letters.

There has been intense interest in cancer immunotherapy. While immune checkpoint inhibitors have shown initial clinical success, still only a subset of patients benefit from this therapy. It was recently reported that cancer cells treated with certain chemotherapeutics can undergo immunogenic cell death and initiate immune responses. If this phenomenon can be harnessed for generating anti-tumor immunity, it may lead to a new approach for personalized cancer immunotherapy.

This is exactly what Yuchen Fan has set out to address in his thesis project. Mr. Fan, under the guidance of James Moon, PhD, John Gideon Searle Assistant Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences, has developed a novel biomaterial-based strategy for converting dying tumor cells into a powerful platform for cancer vaccination. Mr. Fan and his colleagues in the Moon Laboratory have demonstrated, for the first time, the therapeutic potential of this strategy in murine models of melanoma and colon carcinoma. 

In their new study, “Immunogenic Cell Death Amplified by Co-localized Adjuvant Delivery for Cancer Immunotherapy,” published in Nano Letters, Mr. Fan has demonstrated a new approach for generating a whole tumor-cell vaccine. The team has shown that immunogenically dying tumor cells modified with adjuvant-loaded nano-depots can elicit robust T-cell responses in vivo and exert potent therapeutic efficacy against tumor growth and relapse in murine tumor models.

“Our results have strong therapeutic implications as establishment of anti-tumor immunity may eliminate metastatic tumors and prevent tumor relapse,” Dr. Moon said. “Importantly, our research sheds light on how chemotherapy and immunotherapy can synergistically improve therapeutic efficacy against cancer, as combinatorial cancer immumotherapy has become the mainstream of current clinical trials”, Mr. Fan added.

Mr. Fan has been awarded a 2017 Rackham Predoctoral Fellowship. The Rackham Predoctoral Fellowships support exceptional doctoral candidates who are actively working on their dissertation research and writing. The Fellowship acknowledges students who have taken a risk and are working on particularly creative or ambitious dissertations. This competitive fellowship provides the winner with a stipend of $32,000, candidacy tuition, and required fees for twelve months. This fellowship’s financial support and prestige will aid Mr. Fan in realizing his research and career goals as an independent scientist.