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David Soto-Pantoja, PhD

Assistant Professor
Wake Forest University Health Sciences 
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
American Society for Radiation Oncology

Current Research

Goal: To develop combination strategies to enhance the immune response to breast cancer brain metastasis.

Impact: The brain is a frequent site of metastasis for patients with triple-negative breast cancer. Immunotherapies have shown some benefit for patients with metastatic TNBC, but most patients do not benefit. Dr. Soto-Pantoja is studying an immune molecule called CD47 that is found on breast cancer cells and known to block anti-tumor immune response. His work is focused on developing strategies to target CD47 as a way to stimulate immune response for the prevention and treatment of metastatic breast cancer.

What’s next: Dr. Soto-Pantoja will test an anti-CD47 approach in combination with radiation therapy in laboratory models of metastatic breast cancer.

Breast cancer brain metastasis is a devastating disease and difficult to treat. Dr. Soto-Pantoja has been developing methods to stimulate the patient’s own immune system to treat breast cancer brain metastasis and will be evaluating the efficacy of this novel treatment strategy.

Full Research Summary

Research area: Identifying novel combination approaches to improve outcomes for patients with metastatic breast cancer.

Impact: Immunotherapies called checkpoint inhibitors have been effective against several tumors, including some triple-negative breast cancers. Response in breast cancer patients, however, remains low. There is an urgent need to enhance the effectiveness of cancer immunotherapy so that more patients may benefit. Invasive breast cancer cells and immune cells express a molecule called CD47 that is responsible for shutting down the immune response. Dr. Soto-Pantoja’s American Society for Radiation Oncology study, supported by BCRF, is focused on improving anti-tumor immunity with a novel combination approach that includes direct targeting of CD47.

Current research: In previous studies, Dr. Soto-Pantoja showed that blocking CD47 activated an anti-tumor immune response in laboratory models. Dr. Soto-Pantoja will conduct laboratory studies to explore a combination approach of anti-CD47 and radiation therapy as a means to stimulate immune defense in the patients with metastatic breast cancer.


David R. Soto-Pantoja, PhD received his BS in Biology from the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez Campus and his PhD in in Molecular Genetics & Genomics from Wake Forest School of Medicine. He received the Cancer Research Training Award  to complete his post-doctoral research fellowship Laboratory of Pathology of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), where he devoted his efforts in understanding responses of ionizing radiation in normal tissue injury as well as contributing to establishing CD47 as cancer immunotherapy target.  After his postdoctoral training, he received the NCI Transition Career Development Award-K22 and began his independent career as an Assistant Professor at Wake Forest University School of Medicine. He has received numerous awards including the NCI Director’s Innovation Career Development Award, the American Cancer Society Research Scholar grant award, among others. He participates in editorial boards  and has served in the Keystone Symposia Scientific Advisory board as part of the Keystone Fellowship. The research in his lab focuses on examining mechanism of immune cell metabolism to enhance responses to immunotherapy to prevent and treat aggressive cancers. He also studies off-target effects of cancer therapy in the cardiovascular system with the aim at improving the quality of life of cancer patients. Dr. Pantoja’s research program serves as a platform to mentor students from diverse levels and backgrounds so they can continue to pursue careers in science.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Pink Agenda Award