Researcher Spotlight: Todd Fehniger, MD, PhD
washington university school of medicine
Natural killer (NK) cells are a type of immune cell that fight infections and cancer cells. Using advanced techniques for single-cell analysis, Dr. Fehniger’s LRF research aims to study NK cells in patients with follicular lymphoma (FL) to understand why these cells do not effectively clear lymphoma cells and develop strategies to enhance their anti-tumor effects. Leveraging these insights, Dr. Fehniger plans to initiate a clinical trial program investigating the efficacy of a novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) memory-like NK cell therapy for FL. “Through this scientific lens, we expect to identify new avenues of FL immunotherapy,” he says.
Dr. Fehniger is a professor of medicine at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. He began his medical training at The Ohio State University, where he earned his MD and PhD. He first became interested in the role of immunotherapy to treat lymphoma as an oncology fellow under the direction of former LRF Scientific Advisory Board member Dr. Nancy Bartlett. “I became obsessed with immunotherapy—harnessing the immune system to fight lymphoma,” he says. His current research focuses on using antibodies to direct NK cells to attack lymphoma cells, with the hope that one day immunotherapy strategies can be used to help cure patients with lymphoma.
As a physician-scientist, Dr. Fehniger believes that effective treatment of lymphoma is dependent on both basic and translational research. “Advances in the treatment of follicular lymphoma depend on improving our understanding of the disease, including genomics, immunology, and the FL microenvironment,” he explains. “As advancements occur, it is critical for the FL research community to test the best ideas in early phase clinical trials and use those clinical trials to in turn learn more about FL.”