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Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD

Professor of Oncology
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Maryland

Current Research

  • Seeking to advance the use of immunotherapy in breast cancer with combination approaches that enhance the patient’s immune response.

  • Laboratory studies are ongoing to test an immunotherapy combination in a model of HER2-positive breast cancer.

  • These studies may lead to clinical trials of potent immunotherapy combinations for patients with recurrent HER2-positive breast cancer.

Cancer immunotherapy is a new treatment approach that enlists the patient's own immune system to fight cancer. Monoclonal antibodies that block the PD-1 immune checkpoint (called checkpoint inhibitors) unleash a robust anti-tumor immunity and yield tumor responses in a broad range of tumors.

Although some breast cancer patients respond to PD-1 blockade, the majority do not respond. Moreover, most of the trials testing PD-1/PD-L1 modulators in breast cancer have been in the triple negative breast cancer subtype. As yet, there has been little efficacy reported of checkpoint inhibitors for HER2-positive breast cancer. This may be due to a lack of specialized immune cells (called T cells) at the tumor sites. Strategies that induce T cells and counter the tumor’s immunosuppressive properties will be required for immunotherapy to work in most breast cancer patients.

Drs. Jaffee and Emens showed that adding PD-1 pathway blockade plus an additional immune-based treatment significantly enhances immune cell activity and increases tumor-free survival in laboratory models. In the coming year, the team will test this strategy to HER2+ breast cancer by combining the HER2-targeting drug trastuzumab with the immunotherapy regimen to induce adaptive immunity and support tumor-specific T cells.

They hope to develop a highly active immunotherapy regimen that will translate into a clinical trial testing the most potent combination immunotherapy regimen in patients with recurrent HER2+ breast cancer.


Dr. Jaffee is an internationally recognized expert in cancer immunology with specific expertise in the pre-clinical and early clinical development of immunotherapies for breast and pancreatic cancers. She has developed novel vaccine approaches for the treatment of pancreatic and breast cancers and new methodologies for identifying vaccine induced T cell and antibody targets. Dr. Jaffee serves Co-Director of the GI Cancers Program at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Associate Director for Translational Science in the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. She directs the Cell Processing and Gene Therapy cGMP Facility and is Deputy Director for the Institute for Translational and Clinical Research. Recent appointments include: National Cancer Advisory Board, 2015 AACR Annual Meeting Program Planning Committee, Scientific Advisory Council for the Cancer Research Institute and Team Leader for Stand Up To Cancer Pancreatic Dream Team.

BCRF Investigator Since


Donor Recognition

The Clinique Award

Area(s) of Focus