The Sentinel


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Get to Know Sentinel Author: Saman Maleki, PhD

Name: Saman Maleki, PhD

Title: Research Associate

Employer: Lawson Health Research Institute, London, Ontario, Canada

When and why did you become a SITC member?

I become a SITC member last year after I found out about all the great educational work SITC has been doing on the field of cancer immunotherapy.

Can you briefly explain the work you are doing in the field?

I am involved in several translational immunotherapy projects. We are studying the neoantigens in tumors and how it shapes the anti-tumor immune response. We are also studying indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase (IDO) and its effect on immunotherapy and conventional therapy. I am also involved in pre-clinical IND-enabling studies of several novel oncology drugs including a few immuno-oncology agents.

Who or what inspired you to choose this specific career path?

I wanted to study cancer from a young age when I lost my grandmother to cancer. I also became fascinated with the immune system when I studied immunology at the university. Throughout the years, I developed this philosophy that the only way to destroy an ever-evolving disease is with a weapon that has the capacity to evolve as well, and that weapon is the immune system. In 2008, just after starting my PhD, I met Dr. Harald zur Hausen (Noble Laureate) who gave me a great piece of advice about cancer: He suggested that to understand cancer and do something about it, I needed to understand more than one area of science since cancer is a complex disease. So, I studied both tumor immunology and cancer biology to not only understand the weapon but also the enemy.

What are some of the biggest challenges you are facing in the field?

As a translational scientist, I need to work closely with my clinical colleagues. Getting access to clinical samples, data, and designing clinical studies based on pre-clinical studies is by far the biggest hurdle that I am facing as a scientist and I am certain that I am not alone in that. We need to have a better system in place that facilitates scientists access to clinical information and samples. I believe to make progress in this field and any other biomedical field, we need to give scientific research as much priority as treating patients. That is the only way, we can guarantee helping more patients in the future.  

What topic(s) do you plan to write about for The Sentinel, SITC’s new blog?

As a tumor immunologist, I would like to write about the fascinating progress and discoveries that we are making in this field. Also the challenges that we are facing as a field.

What do you hope readers will gain from this new blog?

Awareness about the hurdles facing the field and learning about how immunotherapy works and its potential in treating difficult-to-treat cancers.

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