Damon Runyon Researchers

Meet Our Scientists
Melody Smith, MD

The microorganisms that live in the digestive tract, also known as the intestinal microbiome, have emerged as important factors in patients' response to cancer therapy. Studies have found that the intestinal microbiome can modulate the anti-tumor immune response to several types of therapy, including chimeric antigen receptor T cell (CAR T cell) therapy, in which a patient's own immune cells are genetically modified to target their cancer. CAR T therapy has led to unprecedented responses in patients with high-risk blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma. However, patients may experience disease relapse or CAR-mediated toxicities. Dr. Smith has found that responses to CAR T therapy are linked to alterations in and abundances of the intestinal microbiome. Her research will investigate how the intestinal microbiome mediates this impact on CAR T cells. Dr. Smith was previously a Damon Runyon Physician-Scientist, a complementary award program designed for clinicians interested in research to acquire the skills needed to become physician-scientists.

Project title: "Regulatory mechanisms of the intestinal microbiome on chimeric antigen receptor T cells"
Institution: Stanford University
Award Program: Clinical Investigator
Sponsor(s) / Mentor(s): Robert S. Negrin, MD
Cancer Type: Blood
Research Area: Immunotherapy