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Dr. Liu Named Immunology Department Chair

Dr. Liu Named Immunology Department Chair
M. D. Anderson News Release 10/21/02

The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center has appointed Dr. Yong-Jun Liu as chair of the Department of Immunology.

Dr. Liu, who holds both an M.D. and Ph.D., is an internationally known expert in the function of the immune cells that are key to fighting cancer, and comes to M. D. Anderson from the biotech company DNAX, a leader in immunology and oncology basic research.

"Dr. Liu has the expertise and insight needed to direct basic research programs that can then be quickly translated into potentially unique treatments," says Dr. Margaret Kripke, senior vice president and chief academic officer at M. D. Anderson, and the former chair of immunology. "Cancer immunology is a fertile and growing area of research, and we are proud to have Dr. Liu leading our efforts."

Dr. Liu believes one approach to designing a successful immunologic cancer therapy is to mislead the body's immune system into thinking it is attacking a virus or bacteria. Cancer cells are largely regarded by the immune system as normal body tissue, but researchers may be able to trick immune cell fighters to "see" cancer as foreign, he says. Most importantly, scientists need to design ways to imprint such newly primed cells with a long-lasting memory that will allow them to continue to fight cancers as they develop – in the same way that polio and measles vaccines work over time, Liu says.

The most promising cancer vaccines in development and testing internationally are based on dendritic cells, which are antigen-presenting cells that play a key role in regulating immune responses.

Dr. Liu's expertise includes research on why these vaccines have not yet worked optimally and what can be done to improve them. His research also has focused on cytotoxic T cells, cytokines and immune system regulation.

"Doing cancer research is my dream, and my commitment is to find ways that allow the body to fight cancer, just as it does viruses and bacteria," says Dr. Liu, who was trained in China and Great Britain.

Liu says he hopes to bring the experience he has gained in working for a biotech and a pharmaceutical company to solving medical problems in an academic setting.
Before joining DNAX in 1997, Dr. Liu worked in immunology research at the pharmaceutical company Schering-Plough in France. He obtained his M.D. degree from Norman Bethune University School of Medicine in China and his Ph.D. from the Department of Immunology, Birmingham School of Medicine in the United Kingdom.

He is a member of the New York Academy of Sciences and the American Association for Immunology. This is Dr. Liu's first American academic appointment.



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