"Be passionate about what you do for a living."
I have spent nearly 2 decades of my career in studying human cancer biology and mechanisms by which we can better tailor therapies for patients based on their tumor molecular fingerprints.
Ever since joining Genentech in 2007, my interests have mostly been in studying the tumor microenvironment. In addition to studying markers associated with clinical benefit to anti-angiogenesis agents, my research interests now focus on biological mechanisms associated with efficacy or escape to immunotherapy agents in human cancers. Working at Genentech, we have the luxury of interrogating human tumor biology from large clinical trials that enable us to develop hypotheses that can be interrogated in humans in real time.
I am currently Director and Global Franchise Lead for Cancer Immunotherapy Biomarkers. I lead a group of 20 individuals whose responsibilities include identifying diagnostic strategies for cancer immunotherapies, studying mechanisms of action of immunotherapy agents in patients and interrogating mechanisms associated with immune escape to enable smart combination strategies for patients with cancer.
My team is predominantly focused on biomarkers associated with benefit/escape to cancer immunotherapy agents including checkpoint inhibitors such as those targeting the PD-L1/PD-1 signaling pathway.
Using serial biopsies from patients on clinical trials, we identified distinct histological features in human cancers that promote anti-tumor immune responses or prevent the same based on the localization of T-cells in the context of tumor cells, as well as prevalence of other immunosuppressive cell types in the tumor microenvironment. We have systematically interrogated cancers to understand the relative prevalence of these various cell types and developed a tumor immunome map that shows how cancers differ from one another based on the immunological fingerprint.
A large focus of my group is on identifying predictive markers that enable tailored treatment strategies for patients. To this end, we demonstrated the role of PD-L1 on both tumor cells and immune cells as a predictive marker for checkpoint inhibitors. Development of diagnostic based clinical strategies for drugs is important to ensure that the right patient gets the right drug. We believe strongly in this mission and incorporate biomarkers as endpoints in most of our clinical trials.