Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Harvard Medical School
Professor, Department of Cancer Immunology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Professor of Medicine, Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School
Dr. Marasco is developing immunotherapy for cancer. He is a pioneer in engineering a patient’s immune system T cells to express new targeting receptors – liken to antennas on cells – that can seek out and kill cancer. As a type of adoptive cell therapy using a patient’s own immune cells, this specific modification of the patient’s T cells is referred to as Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T cell therapy. CAR-T therapy not only initiates the killing of a patient’s cancer, but also stimulates the patient’s immune system to activate more T cells within the body to seek and kill cancer. While CAR-T therapy has been approved for types of blood cancers, lymphoma and leukemia, it has not been successful in treating solid tumors.
With NFCR support since 1994, Dr. Marasco has advanced his immunotherapy for clear cell renal cell carcinoma, a type of kidney cancer among the ten most common cancers in men and women. His approach combines CAR-T therapy with checkpoint blockade inhibitors or antibodies that stimulate the immune system. This combination approach is designed to change the tumor environment and enhance the ability of CAR-T treatment to kill cancer cells. Dr. Marasco has proven that restoring the tumor environment towards effective T cell anti-tumor immunity leads to significant renal cell carcinoma cell death in complex tumor models. His technology may be a breakthrough for patients with renal cell carcinoma and may serve as a platform therapy to treat all solid tumors.
Wayne Marasco, M.D., Ph.D., studied at the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine, where he received his Ph.D. in 1980. He conducted his postdoctoral training at the University of Michigan Medical School, where he also earned a M.D. in 1986. He received his sub-specialty training in infectious diseases at Harvard Medical School, where he is currently a professor, and he joined the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in 1989. In 1992, he also joined the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
In 1980 and 1981, Dr. Marasco won the Biomedical Research Council Award and the National Research Service Award from the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, and the University of Michigan awarded him the United States Public Health Service Award in 1981, the Dean’s Award for Research Excellence in 1986 and the Lung Immunopathology Training Grant Award in 1987 and 1988.
Dr. Marasco served as the Director of the NFCR Center for Therapeutic Antibody Engineering from 2003 to 2017 to expand the use of human monoclonal antibodies in the treatment of cancer. In 2009, U.S. News & World Report listed Dr. Marasco as a “Medical Pioneer” and a top scientist in his field. In the same year, Dr. Marasco was selected as a Distinguished Speaker by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.