Dr. Madhu Kumar is an alumnus of MIT, where he earned his PhD in biology. Since then, Madhu Kumar has pursued research on the diagnosis and treatment of cancers and maintains a particular professional interest in immune checkpoint therapies.
When the human body is invaded by disease, whether caused by a bacterium, parasite, virus, fungus, or cancer cell, it triggers a reaction in certain immune cells, known as T cells, which, in turn, produce an immune system response. The T cells are triggered by the activation (or deactivation) of molecules on their surface, called checkpoint molecules. Many cancers use these checkpoint molecules to avoid triggering an immune system response. One of these molecules, known as PD-1 or PD-L1, tells T cells to leave a given cell alone, and some cancers have large amounts of PD-L1, which helps them avoid attack.
Immune checkpoint therapies target molecules such as PD-L1 by introducing antibodies to the molecule in the vicinity of the cancer. This boosts the immune response to cancers and has had promising results in treating cancers such as melanoma of the skin, non-small-cell lung cancer, kidney cancer, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma.