Emily Herrmann Chair in Immunology Research, Cancer Center
Director, Center for Immunotherapy Research
Professor of Oncology, Institute for Academic Medicine
Full Member, Research Institute
Shu-Hsia Chen, Ph.D., is the Emily Herrmann endowed Professor in cancer immunotherapy, director of Cancer Immunotherapy Research Center and Immune Assessment Core at the Methodist Research Institute. Prior to joining Houston Methodist, she was a tenured Professor in the Department of Oncological Sciences and Surgery in the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. She obtained her PhD from National Yang-Ming Medical University in Taiwan in 1993 and finished her fellowship training at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 1996, she assumed the role of Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell Biology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. She has made significant contributions to the fields of gene therapy and cancer immunotherapy. Dr. Chen invented adenoviral gene delivery of suicide and immune modulatory genes for use in cancer immune therapies. Subsequently, she identified myeloid derived suppressor cell (MDSC) populations and has played an integral role in demonstrating MDSC-mediated suppression of antitumor T cell immune responses, identifying the tumor factors involved in MDSC expansion/accumulation, and discovering MDSC-mediated regulatory T cell activation in the tumor microenvironment. Furthermore, Dr. Chen identified the novel immune checkpoint receptors on MDSC population and was able to reprogram the myeloid cell differentiation, thereby modulating the tumor microenvironment. Her current research focuses on overcoming immune suppression in the tumor microenvironment, controlling MDSC/tumor associated macrophage differentiation, and developing effective immune therapeutic strategies for clinical use in cancer and autoimmune diseases. Dr. Chen is a world-class researcher and has done pioneering work in the field of gene therapy and immunotherapy, as demonstrated by her several inventions. She has also served on national and international grant review committees and as a reviewer/consultant for multiple international journals, institutes, and cancer centers. Her laboratory has published high-impact research articles in the field and her research has been continuously supported by multiple NIH grants, DOD grants, and pharmaceutical companies.
Over the past years, my laboratory has focused on gene therapies and cancer immunotherapies. My laboratory has also, to a large extent, focused on elucidating the mechanisms underlying the establishment of immune suppressive tumor microenvironments, a major impediment to the success of immune-based cancer therapies and overcoming cancer cells’ resistance to chemo-radiation therapies. Specifically, we have been examining the mechanisms of immune suppression that are mediated by myeloid derived suppressor cells, macrophages, B cells, and T regulatory cells. In addition, we have been studying the biology of cancer initiating cells, the control of differentiation of myeloid cells and tumor associated macrophages, and modulation of the tumor microenvironment, all of which will influence our ability to control malignant disease.
Our laboratory is working to further define the activation of cancer initiating cells, as well as the immunological changes inside the distinct tumor microenvironment, after administration of radiation therapy, chemotherapy, targeted therapeutics, T cell therapy, and antibody-based novel immune checkpoint therapies. This will help researchers and clinicians integrate conventional therapies with the ideal immunotherapies, thereby achieving the maximal therapeutic efficacy in patients. We are also investigating whether and how targeting therapeutics can overcome the stress-/inflammation-induced immune suppression that subsequently interferes with the success of immunotherapy and chemo/radiation therapy.
One of the primary aims of my lab is to examine how novel immune checkpoint pathways influence tumor growth, receptor/ligand interaction, and the tumor microenvironment. We also aim to develop novel therapeutic agents that effectively target tumors or tumor stromal cells, causing an increase local antigen priming and T cell activation/infiltration for subsequent immunotherapy. This is a key component of achieving long-term tumor remission and lasting immune memory. Using our newly developed immune checkpoints, nanotechnology, and T cell therapy, we can improve tumor targeting and reduce toxicity in patients. Collaborating with colleagues, we have been continually successful in obtaining support from NIH, DOD, and pharmaceutical companies, with the aim of developing novel therapeutic strategies through preclinical and clinical trials.
Program 1. Modulate tumor microenvironment to facilitate cancer immune therapy.
Program 2. Identify novel immune checkpoints, reprogram of myeloid cell/macrophage function and stress signaling to develop novel immune therapy strategies.
Program 3. Tumor inflammation on the regulation of tumor progression and metastases.
Program 4. The MDSC and macrophage mediated immune regulation in human health
Program 5. Synergist effect of innate and adaptive immune response for immune therapy