MindMatters White Logo

David Hou Awarded 2022 ABTA Lucien Rubinstein Award for ‘B Cell Vaccine Promotes Anti-Glioma Immunity Through Modulating CD8+ T Cells’

Share This Content:

David Hou, 2022 ABTA Lucien Rubinstein Award recipient

The American Brain Tumor Association has awarded the 2022 ABTA Lucien Rubinstein Award to David Hou for his project, “B Cell Vaccine Promotes Anti-glioma Immunity Through Modulating CD8+ T cells.” 

David is a 2022 ABTA Jack & Fay Netchin Medical Student Summer Fellowship recipient and a third-year medical student at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago.

His summer fellowship involved studying how B cells can be leveraged as an immunotherapy that directly kills cancer cells in glioblastoma (GBM). David worked under the mentorship of Catalina Lee-Chang, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery in the Feinberg School of Medicine   

A New Approach to Immunotherapy

GBM is one of the deadliest forms of brain cancer with an average survival time of 15-18 months, despite the standard of care.

An emerging treatment for GBM is immunotherapy, which works by teaching the immune system to identify and attack foreign cancer cells. While past research in cancer immunotherapy has focused largely on the direct role of T cells, David’s lab used B cells to create BVax, a vaccine that showed potent survival benefits in preclinical GBM models.

David hypothesized that an important mechanism of BVax is how it activates a different immune cell, CD8+ T, to directly fight cancer. For his fellowship, David created a system where BVax interactions could be studied in a plate.

David found that BVax uses the protein IL15 to activate CD8+ T cells, which gives T cells the ability to remember what cancer cells look like during future encounters.

Study results indicated that BVax-activated CD8+ T cells have a strong ability to kill tumor cells, and that BVax can change the way CD8+ T cells use energy—allowing them to survive longer in the brain and kill tumor cells.

David and his lab are applying the outcomes of his work to develop a novel therapy using BVax-activated CD8+ T cells. So far, they discovered that these T cells could be transferred back into mice while maintaining their memory profile and potential ability to attack brain tumors.

David’s mentor, Dr. Lee-Chang, praised his dedication and ability to work collaboratively.

David worked with experts in the field of cellular metabolism outside the lab to apply those concepts and ideas to his project. He understood the importance of teamwork in science, which allowed him to constantly move his project forward and achieve his goals.

David said the summer fellowship helped him build crucial skills as a future physician-scientist.

“It allowed me to spend a dedicated period of time to carry out experiments for my project, but more importantly, go through the critical thinking process to develop a project and write a grant,” he said.

David said the next step for his project is to translate his findings into a clinically relevant therapeutic benefit.

About The Lucien Rubinstein Award 

The Lucien Rubinstein Award is given to the ABTA Medical Student Summer Fellowship recipient who scores the highest marks from a panel of expert scientific reviewers on his/her project’s final progress report. Recipients of this award receive $1,000 in recognition of their outstanding work. The award is named in honor of the late Lucien J. Rubinstein, MD, who was a pioneer in neuropathology at the University of Virginia and a world-renowned brain tumor researcher.

The ABTA would like to thank the scientific reviewers for their insightful review of all the applications. Learn more about ABTA-funded research.

Jessie Schlacks

Jessie Schlacks

Jessie is Managing Editor of the bi-monthly e-newsletter MindMatters. Submit story ideas or questions to jschlacks@abta.org.