We are proud to announce that renowned immunologist Lieping Chen is joining the Oxford Branch of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Nuffield Department of Medicine, as a Visiting Professor of Cancer Immunotherapy. Chen, who is the United Technologies Chair in Cancer Research, a Professor of Immunobiology, Medicine and Dermatology, and co-director of the Cancer Immunology Program at Yale Cancer Center, Yale University School of Medicine, USA, is an international leader in basic T cell biology and cancer immunotherapy. His visiting professorship at Oxford opens new opportunities for collaboration and expansion in this crucial field.
Cancer immunotherapy is now poised to become a standard treatment for cancer, alongside surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and targeted therapy. Chen has contributed enormously to this exciting development through his seminal work on the PD-1/PD-L1 immune suppressive pathway. The concept of turning a patient’s own immune system against a tumour was proposed decades ago, but it has only recently become a reality. The most effective immunotherapy approach to date involves the blockade of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway.
Chen discovered PD-L1 (originally termed B7-H1) as a member of the B7 family of ligands that have immune suppressive functions. He also demonstrated that human tumours express high levels of PD-L1, and that forced expression of PD-L1 in murine tumours confers resistance to immune elimination. Further, he showed that anti-PD-L1 antibodies could block the interaction of PD-L1 with its receptor (PD-1) to undermine this immune resistance. This revealed the importance of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway in tumour immune resistance and put this pathway on the map as a target for cancer therapy.
Chen has continued to contribute to the clinical targeting of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway. He developed an immunohistochemistry assay for PD-L1 detection in human cancer tissues and collaboratively demonstrated that PD-L1 expression in tumours predicts a greater response to anti-PD-1/PD-L1 therapy. He also helped to initiate and organise the first-in-human clinical trial of a therapy targeting PD-1/PD-L1 pathway.
Chen has received several awards and honours in recognition of his outstanding scientific achievements, including the William B. Coley Award (2014), AAI-Steinman Award (2016), Warren Alpert Foundation Prize (2017), Giants of Cancer Care (2018) and Richard V. Smalley Award (2020). He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences USA and a Fellow of the AACR Academy, American Association for Cancer Research.