Faculty
Oncology Division
Alphabetical list (active faculty):   
Melissa M. Berrien-Elliott

Melissa M. Berrien-Elliott, PhD

Instructor

Department of Medicine

Oncology Division

Stem Cell Biology

Research Interests

  • Natural killer cells
  • Translational immunology
  • Cancer immunotherapy

Contact

  • 314-747-1547 (office)
  • 314-362-9333 (fax)
  • Division of Oncology
    Campus Box 8007
    Washington University
    660 South Euclid Avenue
    St. Louis, MO 63110
  • Room 634, Southwest Tower (office)

Research

My research uses translational approaches to understand how natural killer (NK) cells are impacted by cancer immunotherapies and how the tumor microenvironment contributes to immune evasion. In order to achieve this, I work closely with clinicians at Siteman Cancer Center and St. Louis Children's Hospital assessing clinical samples from patients enrolled in our clinical trials. The ultimate goal of my research is to use these underlying mechanistic insights to develop novel treatments for cancer patients.

Recent work has identified that NK cells display enhanced functionality after brief cytokine activation. These cytokine-induced memory-like (ML) NK cells are safe in patients with relapsed or refractory AML. We have a number of ongoing clinical trials testing the efficacy of these cells in adult and pediatric patients with hematologic malignancies. With mass cytometry, we can monitor the functionality and longevity of these cells after they're transferred into patients. Using this powerful single-cell technology, we have identified novel checkpoints that limit the efficacy of these transferred cells. Ongoing studies are using antibody blockade therapy in pre-clinical models to develop the clinical rationale for combining ML NK cells with checkpoint blockade therapy.

Furthermore, we are currently developing approaches combining these function-enabled ML NK cells with various tumor-targeting strategies, such as chimeric-antigen receptors and tumor-targeting antibodies. The goal of these combination approaches are to be able to treat a wider variety of tumors with ML NK cell adoptive therapies, including solid tumors.