Dr. Ji Young Yoo
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
McGovern Medical School
Department of Neurosurgery
Dr. Yoo’s research focuses on developing therapeutic oncolytic herpes simplex viruses (oHSV) and understanding tumor microenvironment changes in response to oHSV therapy. oHSV therapy offers potential to increase patient survival and quality of life through tumor cell-specific replication and lysis of attenuated HSV-1 derived viruses. The recent FDA approval of oHSV, Talimogene Laherparepvec (T-Vec) for melanoma, underscores the importance of developing methods to harness this strategy for cancer therapy. Dr. Yoo and others have found that oHSV infection of tumor cells causes increased tumor proliferation, angiogenesis, and tumor associated macrophages (TAM) infiltration/activation. These changes by oHSV therapy even benefit for tumor growth contrary to our purpose of using oHSV. Thus, elucidation of the changes in the tumor microenvironment after oHSV treatment can be utilized to optimize clinical translation of this therapeutic modality in patients. Additionally, her current research focuses on evaluating how oHSV/HSV-encoded miRNAS regulate immune cell infiltration and activation, and its impact on anti-viral and anti-tumor immune responses in the oHSV-treated tumor microenvironment. Based on these studies, Dr. Yoo’s lab will develop rationale-driven novel methodology to improve oHSV’s therapeutic efficacy and usefulness by combining with therapeutic anti-cancer agents that are already being used in clinical treatment.
A research project in the laboratory would expose students to a multidisciplinary approach to understanding the molecular basis of disease, and the oHSV-based therapeutic virus development. Students in the Yoo laboratory can look forward to a mentored research experience in a team environment where they will be exposed to state of the art technology and will also be challenged to hone in on their grant writing and presentation skills.