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Tumor Immune Microenvironment Modulation via Drug Delivery

Friday, January 28, 2022

11:00 AM-12:30 PM

BIOMED Special Seminar

Tumor Immune Microenvironment Modulation via Drug Delivery

Kuo-Ching (KC) Mei, PhD
Division of Pharmacoengineering and Molecular Pharmaceutics
Eshelman School of Pharmacy
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Nanosized drug delivery systems have demonstrated their versatilities in various applications, such as the most well-known lipid nanoparticles for COVID-19 mRNA vaccine delivery,[1] and the well-established liposomes for tumor drug delivery since the first approved nano-drug Doxil (liposomal doxorubicin) in the 90s.[2]

Although great progress has been made in cancer therapeutics, the immune-suppressive tumor immune microenvironment (TiME) remained one major barrier in advancing cancer prognosis. TiME is a mixture of cancer cells, immune cells, blood vessels, fibroblasts, and extracellular matrix. Depending on the TiME compositions, tumors can be immune cell exclusive and/or immune suppressive.[3]  Therefore, how to alter TiME compositions to turn the "Cold" (immunosuppressive) tumors "Hot" (immunogenic) is critically important to unleash the true power of cancer immunotherapy.[4] One key strategy to overcome immune-suppressive TiME is through combinational therapy that increases tumor immunogenicity while inhibiting immune suppression checkpoints simultaneously.[5] However, obstacles remained to achieving optimal pharmacokinetics and pharmaco/immunodynamics for therapeutic combinations.

This seminar will focus on the considerations for developing tumor drug delivery systems, concepts for achieving TiME immune modulation, and specific examples for reversing immune-suppressive TiME through synergistic immunogenic cell death induction. Finally, thoughts will be given on the overall outlook and future development in TiME reprogramming via immune-modulating pharmacoactive and bioactive materials as future research directions.

Kuo-Ching (KC) Mei, PhD, received his BScPharm, MRes, and PhD in pharmaceutical sciences from Taipei Medical University, University College London, and King's College London. He is a board certificated pharmacist (Taiwan) and a member of the Royal Society of Chemistry (UK) who worked as a formulation scientist for three years in pharma. In the UK, Dr. Mei studied with Drs. Khuloud Al-Jamal and Robert C. Hider to synthesize carbonaceous nanomaterials and investigated its pharmacokinetics and bio-nano interactions on the blood-brain barrier.

Dr. Mei came to the US for his first postdoc at UCLA School of Medicine, where he studied with Drs. Andre Nel, Meng Huan, and Tian Xia on chemo-immunotherapies for tumor microenvironment immune modulation using lipid-based pharmacoactive materials. As part of this work, he become a co-inventor of 2 US patent applications regarding nano-enabled immunotherapy in cancer. At UNC-Chapel Hill, Dr. Mei works in the Therapeutical Biomaterial Lab, led by Dr. Juliane Nguyen for his second postdoc training. His research focuses on the synthesis and discovery of lipid-based and protein-derived bioactive biomaterials for immune modulation and vaccine delivery. Dr. Mei's future research goals are to develop combinatorial immunotherapy strategies using pharmacoactive and bioactive biomaterials.

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