Immune checkpoint targeting is a new paradigm for cancer treatment. Rather than targeting the tumor cell, this approach targets molecules on immune cells that regulate their activity to sustain immune responses to cancer and achieve elimination of tumors and immunity to recurrence. This strategy has proven effective in treating many different types of cancer and is now the standard of care for metastatic melanoma. The immunotherapy platform provides MD Anderson investigators with support for immunotherapies in the treatment of a wide variety of tumor types and helps to link immunologic data with the genomic and proteomic platforms.

The platform has three components. The preclinical studies group provides for animal studies to help establish feasibility and efficacy of new treatments and combinations. The immunologic monitoring component provides instrumentation and technical support for cellular and molecular analysis of the impact of therapies on the immune system in order to gain insight into mechanisms of action and to discover biomarkers to identify patients who are likely to respond to or develop adverse reactions to therapies. The immunopathology component seeks to provide understanding of changes in the tumor microenvironment associated with therapies.


Last year, we obtained IRB approval to collect tissue and blood samples across multiple tumor types for immune monitoring analysis.  We are participating in approximately 75 clinical trials across 11 MD Anderson departments; 64 investigator-initiated or industry-collaboration trials, 19 moon shot-associated trials, and seven Stand Up To Cancer-associated trials. An additional 15 clinical trials are currently scheduled for this fiscal year.

Since 2013, more than 1,280 patients have been enrolled and over 10,000 blood and 535 tissue samples have been collected and analyzed. We continue crucial clinical trials for melanoma, ovarian, prostate, breast, lung, gastric, kidney, bladder, cervical, anal, colorectal and pancreatic cancers, as well as in leukemia, lymphoma, sarcoma and glioblastoma.

To learn more about how Immunotherapy is driving the Moon Shots Program forward visit here.

James Allison, Ph.D., Chair, Immunology; Moon Shots Program; Immunotherapy; Research Engine
James Allison, Ph.D. Chair, Immunology
Patrick Hwu, M.D. Division Head, Cancer Medicine
Padmanee Sharma, M.D., Ph.D. Professor, Genitourinary Medical Oncology

Cancer immunotherapy pioneer wins the prestigious Lasker-DeBakey Award

For inventing a completely new way to strike cancer by unlocking a shackled immune system attack, Jim Allison, Ph.D., chair of Immunology at MD Anderson, received the nation’s highest honor for clinical medical research — the 2015 Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award.

Dr. Allison and his moon shot team continue research to identify new molecules that block or stimulate the body’s immune response, and more effective ways to encourage our immune systems to fight cancer.

Learn more about Dr. Allison’s groundbreaking work.