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Darrell J. Irvine, PhD

Professor, Biological Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering
Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Cambridge, Massachusetts
EIF/Stand Up To Cancer

Current Research

  • Studies are aimed at improving the effectiveness of immunotherapy by studying the tumor ecosystem.

  • A Stand Up To Cancer Convergence team applies a multi-disciplinary approach to tumor biology.

  • This collaborative research will lead to novel treatment approaches that modify the tumor environment to improve anti-tumor immunity and response to immunotherapy drugs.

Tumors consist not only of cancer cells, but also stromal and immune cells that constitute the tumor microenvironment (TME). The TME is an ecosystem of multiple cell populations, and the extracellular matrix (ECM) that they produce, that interact in a complex fashion to yield tissue form and function. 

Cancer cells can take on dramatically different properties based on influences from the microenvironment.  In many different cancer types, including breast cancer (BC), tumors with more stromal cells typically have worse clinical outcomes. In contrast, tumors infiltrated by a type of immune cell called CD8 T cells have better clinical outcomes. Hence, tumors behave differently based on the collective behavior of the microenvironment. 

The objective of the Stand Up 2 Cancer (SU2C) Convergence team consisting of Drs. Atwal, Irvine, Lee, Levine and Yu is to apply systems and ecological approaches to study the TME and determine whether it is an important determinant for the efficacy of cancer immunotherapy. 

The SU2C team brings together expertise in high dimensional histology, image analysis, culturing cells from primary human breast tumors, 3D spheroids, bioinformatics, ecology modeling, and nanotechnology to study the ecology of the TME in BC, and develop therapeutic and imaging applications.


Darrell Irvine, PhD, is a Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He also serves on the steering committee of the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard. His research is focused on the application of engineering tools to problems in cellular immunology and the development of new materials for vaccine and drug delivery. Current efforts are focused on problems related to vaccine development for HIV and immunotherapy of cancer. This interdisciplinary work has been recognized in numerous awards, including a Beckman young Investigator award, an NSF CAREER award, selection for Technology Review’s ‘TR35’, election as Fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society, and appointment as an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. He is the author of over 70 publications, reviews, and book chapters and an inventor on numerous patents.

BCRF Investigator Since


Area(s) of Focus