Alexandre Vinaud Hirayama, MD

Researcher Spotlight

Researcher Spotlight: Alexandre Vinaud Hirayama, MD

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy is a type
of immunotherapy that genetically modifies a patient’s
immune cells to recognize and kill tumor cells. “CAR T cell therapy has shown promise in the treatment of B-cell lymphomas, which led to the approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration of CAR T cell products targeting a protein on the surface of lymphoma cells
called CD19,” says Dr. Hirayama. “The lymphoma tumor microenvironment — the cellular environment in which the tumor exists — might be an important and yet remarkably understudied factor governing CAR T cell therapy efficacy.”

Dr. Hirayama’s LRF research project seeks to identify factors in the tumor microenvironment that impact CD19 CAR T cell therapy’s efficacy for large B-cell lymphoma. He strives to determine the minimum number of target CD19 molecules required on the surface of lymphoma cells for efficient killing by CAR T cells and explore the
tumor microenvironment’s cellular composition and how interactions between immune, stromal, and tumor cells affect response to CAR T cell therapy.

Dr. Hirayama is an Immunotherapy Physician Scholar at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. He received his MD at the University of Brasília and completed his residency and fellowship at the University of Sao Paulo School of Medicine in Brazil. He joined Dr. Cameron Turtle’s laboratory at Fred Hutchinson, where he conducts studies looking at long-term outcomes of CD19 CAR T cell therapy for B-cell malignancies, which resulted in two first-author papers.

Over the next decade, Dr. Hirayama hopes to become a principal investigator conducting CAR T cell clinical trials using data generated from his LRF research project. “I realized that research is one of the best ways to make meaningful contributions to a large portion of patients suffering from a given disease,” he says. “I thank my mentor, Dr. Cameron Turtle, who inspires me to adopt and commit myself to the highest standards in conducting science in pursuit of helping patients.” Dr. Hirayama’s research project is part of LRF’s Health Equity Initiative devoted to addressing barriers in access to care and research in lymphoma.