Immuno-Oncology (IO)


Scott Antonia, MD, PhD

Program Co-Leader

Program Overview

What is the mission and scope of Immuno-Oncology Program? The scope of the IO Program encompasses all aspects of immunology related to solid tumor and hematologic malignancies, including basic immunobiology of cancer, cancer therapeutics, and immune related toxicities of cancer immunotherapy. Our mission is to make novel scientific discoveries related to tumor escape from immune mediated rejection of tumors as well as immune related toxicities; and to develop strategies that overcome these, testing them in clinical trials with integrated correlative laboratory studies that inform next iterations of basic research and clinical trials.

Immuno-Oncology Program has three Aims:

1.    Basic science discovery of novel aspects of the immunobiology of cancer. 

2.    Development and assessment of novel immunotherapeutic strategies for the treatment of cancer.

3.    Immune mediated toxicities of therapies including immune related adverse events and graft versus host disease.

Focus Areas

Major focus areas include understanding the tumor microenvironment and how it might suppress or augment tumor growth.

Cellular immunotherapy (allogeneic hematopoietic adoptive transfer of T cells, NK cells) - Qi Jing Li, Jeffrey Clarke (clinical trials), Elizabeth Shaz (manufacturing)

Immunomodulatory agents (checkpoint, small molecule/TKI) - Brent Hanks, Yubin Kang, Tian Zhang, Jennifer Choi

Passive immunotherapy (antibody production, vaccines) - Smita Nair, Barton Haynes

Immune-related Toxicity including Graft versus Host Disease - Nelson Chao, Mitchell Horwitz, Afrin Sharif (monitoring)

Immune Monitoring and Tissue Banking - Kent Weinhold, Andy Nixon

Leadership Bios

Scott Antonia, MD, PhD

Stefanie Sarantopoulos, MD, PhD: Dr. Sarantopoulos is a tenured Professor of Medicine and Professor in Immunology at Duke University in the Division of Hematological Malignancies and Stem Cell Therapies where she co-leads the Immuno-Oncology (IO) program at the Duke Cancer Institute (DCI). Her laboratory focuses on aberrant B-cell signaling and maturation. She is also a bone marrow transplant physician who cares for patients with blood and marrow cancer and directs the Duke GVHD Multi-disciplinary ResearchCare Team (MRCT).

Dr. Sarantopoulos heads an NIH R01-funded research lab that focuses on extrinsic and intrinsic mechanisms that drive B cell biology and pathobiology. Dr. Sarantopoulos is the PI of an NIH funded clinical trial that is derived from her laboratory work. For this work, she was inducted to the American Society of Clinical Investigation (ASCI). In the lab and as Vice Chair of Research for the Division of Hematological Malignancies and Cellular therapy, she actively mentors, students, post-doctoral fellows, clinical fellows and junior faculty.

Dr. Sarantopoulos is an active participant on the NIH Chronic GVHD Consensus Project and the current co-leader of the 2020 Etiology and Prevention Working Group. Dr. Sarantopoulos has served on several Scientific Committees for the American Society of Transplantation and Cellular Therapy (ASTCT) and currently on the Scientific Committee for Immunology and Host Defense for American Society of Hematology (ASH). She is the Chair of the ASH Scholar Award review committee. Dr. Sarantopoulos recently completed service as elected Director of Laboratory Sciences for the ASTCT, and in this role helped forge the Diversity and Inclusion efforts of our society. She currently serves as an Associate editor for the journal of Transplantation and Cellular Therapy.

Centers and Labs

DCI Shared ResourcesDuke Cancer Institute (DCI) Shared Resources provide access to technologies, services, and scientific consultation that enhance scientific interaction and productivity. The support of shared services for DCI provides stability, reliability, cost-effectiveness, access to specialized technology and methodology and quality control. DCI Shared resources are supported by the P30 Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG).

DCI Center for Cancer Immunotherapy:

The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center: Established in 1937, The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center was one of the first brain tumor research and clinical programs in the United States. Since then, it has advanced to become one of the best pediatric and adult neuro-oncology programs in the world—leading the way in comprehensive care that combines research breakthroughs, clinical trials, and the newest therapies. 

National Cancer Institute - Duke Cancer Institute: The Duke Cancer Institute (DCI) integrates all cancer-related activities at Duke Health and has been recognized as an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center since 1972. The DCI leadership team oversees all aspects of cancer care, cancer-related research, and cancer-related education across Duke University and the Duke University Health System.

Scientific Highlights

Chronic graft versus host disease (cGVHD) patients have increased B cell-activating factor (BAFF) levels, but whether BAFF promotes disease after allogeneic bone marrow transplantation (allo-BMT) remains unknown. In a major MHC-mismatched model with cGVHD-like manifestations we first examined B-lymphopenic mMT allo-BMT recipients and found that increased BAFF levels in cGVHD mice were not merely a reflection of B cell number.

Clinical Trials