Damon Runyon Researchers

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Gabriel K. Griffin, MD

Immunotherapy drugs, which spur the body's own immune system to attack tumors, hold great promise but still fail in many patients. Dr. Griffin aims to identify therapeutic targets that can enhance the efficacy and scope of immunotherapy in melanoma and other cancer types. His unique approach focuses on retrotransposons, repetitive sequences of DNA that are evolutionary remnants of viruses and comprise upwards of 50% of the human genome. These genetic elements are usually silenced via DNA methylation but can activate an immune response at certain times. Dr. Griffin’s research will characterize the epigenetic pathways that silence these repetitive elements in cancer cells, thus helping tumors evade surveillance by the immune system. This basic understanding may guide the development of epigenetic therapies capable of triggering anti-tumor immunity.

Project title: "Enhancing cancer immunotherapy through epigenetic modulation of the repetitive genome"
Institution: Brigham and Women's Hospital
Award Program: Physician-Scientist
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Bradley E. Bernstein, MD, PhD, and Arlene H. Sharpe, MD, PhD
Cancer Type: Skin
Research Area: Epigenetics