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Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy
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Santosh Vardhana, MD, PhD

Parker Senior Fellow


As a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, my goal is to apply fundamental biological insights in immunology, metabolism, and epigenetics towards improving immune-based therapeutic strategies in human cancers. I performed my graduate work in the laboratory of Dr. Michael Dustin at New York University, during which I studied the molecular mechanisms by which T-cells regulate initiation and termination of immune responses through the immunological synapse. My research provided the foundation for novel methods to promote productive immune responses (such as cancer immunotherapy and antiviral immunity) and curtail unwanted immune responses (such as autoimmune disease). As a post-doctoral fellow in the laboratory of Dr. Craig Thompson, I have explored how regulation of metabolism and epigenetics affect cellular identity and differentiation.  I have also have applied my immunology background to explore the mechanism by which PD-1 blockade promotes effective antitumor responses in certain hematologic malignancies, such as Hodgkin Lymphoma (HL), while failing to induce durable remissions in others, such as diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). My work has identified aberrant T-cell differentiation as a mechanism of resistance in cancers, leading to development of novel combination immunotherapy-based clinical trials.

As a Parker Senior Fellow, I will explore how adaptive metabolic shifts in cancer cell metabolism promote survival and metastatic spread in response to anti-tumor immune responses, as well as how altered metabolism in the setting of chronic antigen exposure promotes T-cell exhaustion and limits anti-tumor responses. In doing so, I hope to continue performing fundamental cancer biology and immunology research with clear translational relevance and clinical applicability.

Education & Training

  • 2002: University of Pennsylvania, PA, BA, Biological basis of behavior
  • 2009: New York University School of Medicine, NY, PhD, Immunology
  • 2011: New York University School of Medicine, NY, MD, Internal Medicine
  • 2013: New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical College, NY, Residency, Internal Medicine
  • 2017: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Fellowship Medical Oncology

Awards & Honors

  • 2019: Burroughs Wellcome Fund Career Award for Medical Scientists
  • 2019: K08 Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award
  • 2016: Young Investigator Award, American Society of Clinical Oncology
  • 2016: Fellowship in Clinical Lymphoma Research, American Association of Cancer Research
  • 2015: Mortimer J. Lacher Fellow, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • 2014: Chief Medical Oncology Fellow, Internal Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center