Dr. Touloukian has an established background in surgical oncology, cancer immunotherapy, clinical immunology, and tumor immunology. While his clinical work is focused on the surgical treatment soft tissue cancers, his research advances treatments in gene-therapy and immunotherapy for patients with metastatic melanoma.
Dr. Touloukian’s lab has concentrated its efforts on the development of a model in which the host immune system is permanently reconfigured with a high frequency T cell population capable of recognizing a key antigenic component found on the surface of melanoma. In a recently published report, his lab has used a high expression lentiviral system to introduce the T cell receptor (TCR) genes from a tumor reactive HLA-DR4-restricted CD4+ T cell clone specific for the melanocyte differentiation antigen TRP-1 in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). Studies demonstrated high efficiency TCR gene transfer in long-term transplants, the induction of spontaneous autoimmune vitiligo, and the induction of a TCR-specific TH1 polarized memory effector (TEM) CD4+ T cell population. Most importantly, studies revealed the rejection of subcutaneous melanoma without the aid of vaccination, myelodepletion, or cytokine administration. This work was supported by an R01 grant, and his lab is currently in the implementation stages of a new clinical trial for patient’s metastatic melanoma that is being supported by the V Foundation.
In parallel with this work, Dr. Touloukian’s lab is also addressing basic mechanisms of immune engraftment, thymic selection, promiscuous antigen expression, and how tumor responses can be more effectively elicited and sustained over time.
Dr. Touloukian has also trained 2 M.D., Ph.D students, 2 post-doctoral fellows (two of which were funded under a T32 training grants), and several medical students.