Dr. Ajay Maker’s research focuses on cancers of the gastrointestinal tract and hepatopancreatobiliary system. During his post-doctoral training he performed translational immunotherapy research under Dr. Steven Rosenberg at the National Institutes of Health, where he and his colleagues were of the first to identify the utility of an anti-CTLA4 antibody as an anti-cancer treatment for patients with metastatic melanoma, and investigated its immunological mechanism of action in Phase I/II trials with Ipilimumab. Since that time, his lab has been interested in understanding the response of the immune system to primary gastrointestinal cancers and their metastases. They have determined that a tumor microenvironment reflective of T-cell proliferation and activation is associated with improved survival in patients with colorectal liver metastases. They have since identified candidate genes and cytokines that are potential therapeutic targets for enhancing the anti-tumor immune response in these patients and are currently developing techniques to stimulate this process.
In addition, Ajay Maker MD has an interest in using targeted therapy to incite cancer cell apoptosis. He and his colleagues have developed a technique to sensitize resistant gastrointestinal cancer cells to TRAIL induced apoptosis by manipulating tumor cell glucose metabolism. Investigation of the mechanisms responsible for this synergy have identified unique signaling pathways and miRNA targets that may provide tumor-specific targets for therapy.
Additionally, Dr. Maker’s laboratory is interested in identifying immunologic markers of cancer in pancreatic cystic tumors. A great challenge in the clinical management of mucinous tumors of the pancreas is determination of appropriate timing for pancreatic resection. He and his colleagues have previously determined the utility of EUS-FNA in evaluation of mucinous cysts, and have identified unique mucin and cytokine markers of pancreatic malignancy. Along with colleagues in the Branch-Duct IPMN International Expert Conference Biomarkers Working Group, they have reported upon current and future biomarkers for pancreatic cystic tumors.