Member Q+A - Dr Saman Maleki

Here, we meet Saman who carries out his research at Western University, Ontario, Canada.
Member Q+A - Dr Saman Maleki

1. What is your full name, job title and where do you work?

Saman Maleki. Adjunct Research Professor at the Department of Oncology at Western University, London, Ontario, Canada.

2. What are your main research interests?

Transforming immunotherapy-resistant tumours into those that are sensitive to immunotherapy, through mechanisms that target both the tumour and the immune system. And also, translating promising pre-clinical studies into phase I clinical studies.

3. Describe your work in a tweet

We target cancer cells with various therapeutics not to kill them but to sensitize them to immunotherapy.

4. What big projects are you working on right now?

We just received a grant from the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) to study inducing mismatch-repair (MMR) deficiency in MMR-proficient cancers as a way to sensitize them to immunotherapy. I am also leading a multi-disciplinary team who are organizing the first-in-human study combining Fecal Microbiota Transplant (FMT) with immunotherapy in cancer patients.

5. Who do you collaborate with?

Medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, surgeons, bacteriologists, other immunologists, and industry scientists.

6. Tell us a bit about your career so far?

I started as a microbiologist but then fell in love with tumour immunology. My PhD focussed on tumour immunology and cancer biology and my post-doctoral training enabled me to work with several biotech companies on their pre-phase I immuno-oncology and oncology drug development. Currently, my research focuses on translational immunotherapy studies, working closely with mainly medical oncologists.

7. What are you most proud of?

Being part of a team (scientists and clinicians) at the London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP) at The London Health Sciences Centre that works hard every day with one goal in mind: Improving the life of cancer patients through research.

8. What’s your interest in the cancer-immune setpoint?

The cancer-immune setpoint provides a holistic map of the complex relationship between the immune system and cancer. This will allow the community of experts working in this field (immunotherapy) to not only look at their factor (e.g molecule) of interest but its relationship with other factors that can affect response to immunotherapy.

9. What do you hope it will achieve?

I am hoping that it will not only help us understand cancer-immune system interactions better, but also fosters new collaborations among experts in the field who do not normally interact with each other.

10. What are your hopes for the future of cancer immunotherapy?

To win against an ever-evolving disease such as cancer, we need to have a weapon that can also evolve and the only one with such a characteristic is the immune system. I am hoping that in the future, immunotherapy can provide long-term solutions for all cancers - either curing them or transforming them into manageable chronic diseases.

11. What advice do you have for others working in the field?

Try to work with people whose works are not closely related to yours. There is a chance that cancer relates to both of your works.

12. What do you do to wind down?

Play with my 17-month-old son, Benjamin.

13. Tell us something unusual about yourself

Reading complex scientific papers gives me an intense joy that is almost like having fun playing sports.

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