Research Summary

As a physician scientist, I have been dedicated to brain tumor immunology and development of effective immunotherapy for brain tumors for over 20 years. My team was one of very first to discover cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) epitopes in glioma-associated and glioma-specific neoantigens, and found critical roles for the integrin receptor known as very late activation antigen (VLA)-4 in facilitating entry of CTLs to the brain tumor site. I have translated these discoveries into novel vaccine and immune-gene therapy clinical studies in both adult and pediatric brain tumor patients. I am a member in the American Society for Clinical Investigation (2010-present), an honored society for physicians who promote laboratory science to the clinic. My current national and international leadership roles include: chair of the immunotherapy subgroup at the NCI-sponsored Adult Brain Tumor Consortium; a Steering Committee member of the Cancer Immunology Working Group in the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR); a co-chair for Education Day at 2015 the Society for Neuro-Oncology annual meeting; and an Organizing Committee member for the 2015 Annual Meeting of the AACR.

Research Funding

  • December 15, 2017 - November 30, 2025 - Preclinical development of breakthrough immunotherapy for brain tumors , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R35NS105068
  • July 1, 2018 - June 30, 2023 - Glioma immunotherapy targeting IDH mutation-derived epitope and immunosuppression , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01CA222965
  • May 15, 2016 - March 31, 2021 - Novel K27M Mutation-derived Neoantigen for T Cell Therapy in Gliomas , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R01NS096954
  • February 14, 2019 - January 31, 2021 - Pilot randomized neoadjuvant vaccine with CD27-costimulation in low-grade glioma , Principal Investigator . Sponsor: NIH, Sponsor Award ID: R21CA233856

Education

Nagoya University School of Medicine-Japan, M.D., 1991, Medicine
Nagoya University School of Medicine-Japan, Ph.D., 1996, Medicine
Handa Municipal Hospital-Japan, Internship, Residency, 1991-1992
Nagoya University School of Medicine-Japan, Residency, 1992-1996, Neurosurgery

Honors & Awards

  • 1996
    Uehara Memorial Foundation Postdoctoral Scholarship
  • 1998
    First Place, Award for Scientific Excellence and Potential, 10th Annual University of Pittsburgh, Cancer Institute Scientific Retreat
  • 2001
    Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Clinical Scientist Development Award
  • 2003
    James S. McDonnell Foundation 21st Century Science Initiative Research Award: Brain Cancer Research
  • 2007
    Excellence in Translational Medicine Award 2006-07 from Journal of Translational Medicine
  • 2008
    University of Pittsburgh Innovator Award
  • 2010
    Team Science Recognition Award by Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer
  • 2011
    Faculty Honoree in the Annual Convocation of University of Pittsburgh

Selected Publications

  1. Brown CE, Bucktrout S, Butterfield LH, Futer O, Galanis E, Hormigo A, Lim M, Okada H, Prins R, Marr SS, Tanner K. The future of cancer immunotherapy for brain tumors: a collaborative workshop. J Transl Med. 2022 May 23; 20(1):236.  View on PubMed
  2. Chuntova P, Yamamichi A, Chen T, Narayanaswamy R, Ronseaux S, Hudson C, Tron AE, Hyer ML, Montoya M, Mende AL, Nejo T, Downey KM, Diebold D, Lu M, Nicolay B, Okada H. Inhibition of D-2HG leads to upregulation of a proinflammatory gene signature in a novel HLA-A2/HLA-DR1 transgenic mouse model of IDH1R132H-expressing glioma. J Immunother Cancer. 2022 May; 10(5).  View on PubMed
  3. Chuntova P, Hou Y, Naka R, Yamamichi A, Chen T, Goretsky Y, Hatae R, Nejo T, Kohanbash G, Mende AL, Montoya M, Downey KM, Diebold D, Skinner J, Liang HE, Schwer B, Okada H. Novel EGFRvIII-CAR transgenic mice for rigorous preclinical studies in syngeneic mice. Neuro Oncol. 2022 02 01; 24(2):259-272.  View on PubMed
  4. Ogino H, Taylor JW, Nejo T, Gibson D, Watchmaker PB, Okada K, Saijo A, Tedesco MR, Shai A, Wong CM, Rabbitt JE, Olin MR, Moertel CL, Nishioka Y, Salazar AM, Molinaro AM, Phillips JJ, Butowski NA, Clarke JL, Oberheim Bush NA, Hervey-Jumper SL, Theodosopoulos P, Chang SM, Berger MS, Okada H. Randomized trial of neoadjuvant vaccination with tumor-cell lysate induces T cell response in low-grade gliomas. J Clin Invest. 2022 02 01; 132(3).  View on PubMed
  5. Haddad AF, Young JS, Oh JY, Okada H, Aghi MK. The immunology of low-grade gliomas. Neurosurg Focus. 2022 02; 52(2):E2.  View on PubMed
  6. Hwang EI, Sayour EJ, Flores CT, Grant G, Wechsler-Reya R, Hoang-Minh LB, Kieran MW, Salcido J, Prins RM, Figg JW, Platten M, Candelario KM, Hale PG, Blatt JE, Governale LS, Okada H, Mitchell DA, Pollack IF. The current landscape of immunotherapy for pediatric brain tumors. Nat Cancer. 2022 01; 3(1):11-24.  View on PubMed
  7. Simonds EF, Lu ED, Badillo O, Karimi S, Liu EV, Tamaki W, Rancan C, Downey KM, Stultz J, Sinha M, McHenry LK, Nasholm NM, Chuntova P, Sundström A, Genoud V, Shahani SA, Wang LD, Brown CE, Walker PR, Swartling FJ, Fong L, Okada H, Weiss WA, Hellström M. Deep immune profiling reveals targetable mechanisms of immune evasion in immune checkpoint inhibitor-refractory glioblastoma. J Immunother Cancer. 2021 06; 9(6).  View on PubMed
  8. Ohkuri T, Kosaka A, Ikeura M, Salazar AM, Okada H. IFN-γ- and IL-17-producing CD8+ T (Tc17-1) cells in combination with poly-ICLC and peptide vaccine exhibit antiglioma activity. J Immunother Cancer. 2021 06; 9(6).  View on PubMed
  9. Choe JH, Watchmaker PB, Simic MS, Gilbert RD, Li AW, Krasnow NA, Downey KM, Yu W, Carrera DA, Celli A, Cho J, Briones JD, Duecker JM, Goretsky YE, Dannenfelser R, Cardarelli L, Troyanskaya O, Sidhu SS, Roybal KT, Okada H, Lim WA. SynNotch-CAR T cells overcome challenges of specificity, heterogeneity, and persistence in treating glioblastoma. Sci Transl Med. 2021 04 28; 13(591).  View on PubMed
  10. Chuntova P, Chow F, Watchmaker PB, Galvez M, Heimberger AB, Newell EW, Diaz A, DePinho RA, Li MO, Wherry EJ, Mitchell D, Terabe M, Wainwright DA, Berzofsky JA, Herold-Mende C, Heath JR, Lim M, Margolin KA, Chiocca EA, Kasahara N, Ellingson BM, Brown CE, Chen Y, Fecci PE, Reardon DA, Dunn GP, Liau LM, Costello JF, Wick W, Cloughesy T, Timmer WC, Wen PY, Prins RM, Platten M, Okada H. Unique challenges for glioblastoma immunotherapy-discussions across neuro-oncology and non-neuro-oncology experts in cancer immunology. Meeting Report from the 2019 SNO Immuno-Oncology Think Tank. Neuro Oncol. 2021 03 25; 23(3):356-375.  View on PubMed
  11. Mende AL, Schulte JD, Okada H, Clarke JL. Current Advances in Immunotherapy for Glioblastoma. Curr Oncol Rep. 2021 01 26; 23(2):21.  View on PubMed
  12. Wang L, Shamardani K, Babikir H, Catalan F, Nejo T, Chang S, Phillips JJ, Okada H, Diaz AA. The evolution of alternative splicing in glioblastoma under therapy. Genome Biol. 2021 01 26; 22(1):48.  View on PubMed
  13. Chapelin F, Leach BI, Chen R, Lister D, Messer K, Okada H, Ahrens ET. Assessing Oximetry Response to Chimeric Antigen Receptor T-cell Therapy against Glioma with 19F MRI in a Murine Model. Radiol Imaging Cancer. 2021 01; 3(1):e200062.  View on PubMed
  14. Nair S, Mazzoccoli L, Jash A, Govero J, Bais SS, Hu T, Fontes-Garfias CR, Shan C, Okada H, Shresta S, Rich JN, Shi PY, Diamond MS, Chheda MG. Zika virus oncolytic activity requires CD8+ T cells and is boosted by immune checkpoint blockade. JCI Insight. 2021 01 11; 6(1).  View on PubMed
  15. Crotty E, Downey K, Ferrerosa L, Flores C, Hegde B, Raskin S, Hwang E, Vitanza N, Okada H. Considerations when treating high-grade pediatric glioma patients with immunotherapy. Expert Rev Neurother. 2021 02; 21(2):205-219.  View on PubMed
  16. Mueller S, Taitt JM, Villanueva-Meyer JE, Bonner ER, Nejo T, Lulla RR, Goldman S, Banerjee A, Chi SN, Whipple NS, Crawford JR, Gauvain K, Nazemi KJ, Watchmaker PB, Almeida ND, Okada K, Salazar AM, Gilbert RD, Nazarian J, Molinaro AM, Butterfield LH, Prados MD, Okada H. Mass cytometry detects H3.3K27M-specific vaccine responses in diffuse midline glioma. J Clin Invest. 2020 12 01; 130(12):6325-6337.  View on PubMed
  17. Nejo T, Mende A, Okada H. The current state of immunotherapy for primary and secondary brain tumors: similarities and differences. Jpn J Clin Oncol. 2020 Oct 22; 50(11):1231-1245.  View on PubMed
  18. Ascierto PA, Bifulco C, Galon J, Garbe C, Khleif SN, McQuade J, Odunsi K, Okada H, Paulos CM, Quezada SA, Tawbi HA, Timmerman J, Trinchieri G, Butterfield LH, Puzanov I. The Great Debate at 'Immunotherapy Bridge', Naples, December 5, 2019. J Immunother Cancer. 2020 08; 8(2).  View on PubMed
  19. Kwok D, Okada H. T-Cell based therapies for overcoming neuroanatomical and immunosuppressive challenges within the glioma microenvironment. J Neurooncol. 2020 Apr; 147(2):281-295.  View on PubMed
  20. Montoya ML, Kasahara N, Okada H. Introduction to immunotherapy for brain tumor patients: challenges and future perspectives. Neurooncol Pract. 2020 Oct; 7(5):465-476.  View on PubMed

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