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Shari A. Pilon-Thomas, PhD

Academic Rank: Associate Member



    • Cutaneous Oncology
    • Immunology
    • Genitourinary Oncology
    • Immunology
    • Center for Immunization and Infection Research in Cancer
    • Melanoma Research Center of Excellence

Education & Training


  • Wayne State University, PhD - Immunology/Microbiology
  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Postdoctoral Fellow - Surgery, Tumor Immunology, Immunotherapy

A major goal of my research is to investigate approaches that overcome melanoma-mediated T cell suppression. Much of my research on the anti-melanoma activity of combined lymphopenia and immunotherapy. Based on the hypothesis that regression of established melanoma will require multiple immunotherapeutic approaches for the induction of effective anti-tumor T-cell activity, my scientific research aims to implement therapies for the induction of potent anti-tumor T-cell responses against melanoma. We aim to achieve this by: 1. Investigating experimentally the mechanisms of immune regulation induced after lymphopenia; 2. Examining the efficacy of DC-based vaccination in the setting of lymphopenia by transfer of T cells enriched in CD8+ memory T cells; and 3. Determining the efficacy of dendritic cell vaccination and CpG adjuvant therapy in combination with irradiation and adoptive T-cell transfer in a murine melanoma model. We have outlined experimental studies that are designed to continue successful preclinical efforts to generate immunization strategies against melanoma.  These findings could be translated to human clinical immunotherapeutic trials.  We are also is investigating the effectiveness of radiation therapy followed by T-cell transfer and dendritic cell immunotherapy for treatment of established melanoma with the goal of defining the potential of combining radiation or chemotherapy and immunotherapy for treatment of melanoma.


  • Atay C, Kwak T, Lavilla-Alonso S, Donthireddy L, Richards AD, Moberg VE, Pilon-Thomas S, Schell MJ, Messina JL, Rebecca VW, Xiao M, Tan J, Zhang G, Weber JS, Herlyn M, Sarnaik AA, Gabrilovich DI. BRAF Targeting Sensitizes Resistant Melanoma to Cytotoxic T Cells. Clin Cancer Res. 2019 May;25(9):2783-2794. Pubmedid: 30765391. Pmcid: PMC6497575.
  • Hopewell EL, Cox C, Pilon-Thomas S, Kelley LL. Tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes: Streamlining a complex manufacturing process. Cytotherapy. 2019 Mar;21(3):307-314. Pubmedid: 30509772. Pmcid: PMC6453723.
  • El-Kenawi A, Gatenbee C, Robertson-Tessi M, Bravo R, Dhillon J, Balagurunathan Y, Berglund A, Visvakarma N, Ibrahim-Hashim A, Choi J, Luddy K, Gatenby R, Pilon-Thomas S, Anderson A, Ruffell B, Gillies R. Acidity promotes tumour progression by altering macrophage phenotype in prostate cancer. Brit J Cancer. 2019 Aug. Pubmedid: 31417189.
  • López Alfonso JC, Poleszczuk J, Walker R, Kim S, Pilon-Thomas S, Conejo-Garcia JJ, Soliman H, Czerniecki B, Harrison LB, Enderling H. Immunologic Consequences of Sequencing Cancer Radiotherapy and Surgery. JCO Clin Cancer Inform. 2019 Apr;3:1-16. Pubmedid: 30964698. Pmcid: PMC6661069.
  • Mullinax JE, Hall M, Prabhakaran S, Weber J, Khushalani N, Eroglu Z, Brohl AS, Markowitz J, Royster E, Richards A, Stark V, Zager JS, Kelley L, Cox C, Sondak VK, Mulé JJ, Pilon-Thomas S, Sarnaik AA. Combination of Ipilimumab and Adoptive Cell Therapy with Tumor-Infiltrating Lymphocytes for Patients with Metastatic Melanoma. Front Oncol. 2018 Mar;8:44. Pubmedid: 29552542. Pmcid: PMC5840208.
  • Walker R, Poleszczuk J, Pilon-Thomas S, Kim S, Anderson AARA, Czerniecki BJ, Harrison LB, Moros EG, Enderling H. Immune interconnectivity of anatomically distant tumors as a potential mediator of systemic responses to local therapy. Sci Rep. 2018 Jun;8(1):9474. Pubmedid: 29930290. Pmcid: PMC6013469.
  • Damgaci S, Ibrahim-Hashim A, Enriquez-Navas PM, Pilon-Thomas S, Guvenis A, Gillies RJ. Hypoxia and acidosis: immune suppressors and therapeutic targets. Immunology. 2018 Jul;154(3):354-362. Pubmedid: 29485185. Pmcid: PMC6002221.
  • Poch M, Hall M, Joerger A, Kodumudi K, Beatty M, Innamarato PP, Bunch BL, Fishman MN, Zhang J, Sexton WJ, Pow-Sang JM, Gilbert SM, Spiess PE, Dhillon J, Kelley L, Mullinax J, Sarnaik AA, Pilon-Thomas S. Expansion of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) from bladder cancer. Oncoimmunology. 2018 Jul;7(9):e1476816. Pubmedid: 30228944. Pmcid: PMC6140546.
  • Liu H, Weber A, Morse J, Kodumudi K, Scott E, Mullinax J, Sarnaik AA, Pilon-Thomas S. T cell mediated immunity after combination therapy with intralesional PV-10 and blockade of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway in a murine melanoma model. PLoS One. 2018 Apr;13(4):e0196033. Pubmedid: 29694419. Pmcid: PMC5918896.
  • Walker R, Schoenfeld JD, Pilon-Thomas S, Poleszczuk J, Enderling H. Evaluating the potential for maximized T cell redistribution entropy to improve abscopal responses to radiotherapy. Converg Sci Phys Oncol. 2017 Sep;3(3). Pubmedid: 29774168. Pmcid: PMC5949881.
  • Mahajan NP, Malla P, Bhagwat S, Sharma V, Sarnaik A, Kim J, Pilon-Thomas S, Weber J, Mahajan K. WEE1 epigenetically modulates 5-hmC levels by pY37-H2B dependent regulation of gene expression. Oncotarget. 2017 Dec;8(63):106352-106368. Pubmedid: 29290954. Pmcid: PMC5739739.
  • Hall M, Liu H, Malafa M, Centeno B, Hodul PJ, Pimiento J, Pilon-Thomas S, Sarnaik AA. Expansion of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL) from human pancreatic tumors. J Immunother Cancer. 2016 Oct;4:61. Pubmedid: 27777771. Pmcid: PMC5067894.
  • Pilon-Thomas S, Kodumudi KN, El-Kenawi AE, Russell S, Weber AM, Luddy K, Damaghi M, Wojtkowiak JW, Mulé JJ, Ibrahim-Hashim A, Gillies RJ. Neutralization of Tumor Acidity Improves Antitumor Responses to Immunotherapy. Cancer Res. 2016 Mar;76(6):1381-1390. Pubmedid: 26719539. Pmcid: PMC4829106.
  • Pisklakova A, McKenzie B, Zemp F, Lun X, Kenchappa RS, Etame AB, Rahman MM, Reilly K, Pilon-Thomas S, McFadden G, Kurz E, Forsyth PA. M011L-deficient oncolytic myxoma virus induces apoptosis in brain tumor-initiating cells and enhances survival in a novel immunocompetent mouse model of glioblastoma. Neurooncol. 2016 Mar. Pubmedid: 26962017. Pmcid: PMC4933479.
  • Liu H, Innamarato PP, Kodumudi K, Weber A, Nemoto S, Robinson JL, Crago G, McCardle T, Royster E, Sarnaik AA, Pilon-Thomas S. Intralesional rose bengal in melanoma elicits tumor immunity via activation of dendritic cells by the release of high mobility group box 1. Oncotarget. 2016 Jun;7(25):37893-37905. Pubmedid: 27177220. Pmcid: PMC5122358.
  • Kodumudi KN, Siegel J, Weber AM, Scott E, Sarnaik AA, Pilon-Thomas S. Immune Checkpoint Blockade to Improve Tumor Infiltrating Lymphocytes for Adoptive Cell Therapy. PLoS One. 2016 Apr;11(4):e0153053. Pubmedid: 27050669. Pmcid: PMC4822778.
  • Pilon-Thomas S, Ruffell B. Tipping the Balancing ACT. Cancer Cell. 2016 09;30(3):367-368. Pubmedid: 27622327.
  • Nelson N, Xiang S, Zhang X, Gilvary D, Djeu J, Husain K, Malafa M, Vohra N, Pilon-Thomas S, Ghansah T. Murine pancreatic adenocarcinoma reduces Ikaros expression and disrupts T cell homeostasis. PLoS One. 2015 Jan;10(1):e0115546. Pubmedid: 25629611. Pmcid: PMC4309586.
  • Chacon J, Sarnaik A, Chen J, Creasy C, Kale C, Robinson J, Weber J, Hwu P, Pilon-Thomas S, Radvanyi LG. Manipulating the tumor microenvironment ex vivo for enhanced expansion of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes for adoptive cell therapy. Clin Cancer Res. 2015 Feb;21(3):611-621. Pubmedid: 25472998. Pmcid: PMC4315752.
  • Chacon JA, Sarnaik AA, Pilon-Thomas S, Radvanyi L. Triggering co-stimulation directly in melanoma tumor fragments drives CD8 tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte expansion with improved effector-memory properties. Oncoimmunology. 2015 Dec;4(12):e1040219. Pubmedid: 26587314. Pmcid: PMC4635692.
  • Toomey P, Kodumudi K, Weber A, Kuhn L, Moore E, Sarnaik AA, Pilon-Thomas S. Intralesional injection of rose bengal induces a systemic tumor-specific immune response in murine models of melanoma and breast cancer. PLoS One. 2014 Mar;8(7):e68561. Pubmedid: 23874673. Pmcid: PMC3714270.
  • Komine H, Kuhn L, Matsushita N, Mulé JJ, Pilon-Thomas S. Examination of MARCO activity on dendritic cell phenotype and function using a gene knockout mouse. PLoS One. 2014 Feb;8(7):e67795. Pubmedid: 23840879. Pmcid: PMC3698187.
  • Chacon JA, Wu RC, Sukhumalchandra P, Molldrem JJ, Sarnaik A, Pilon-Thomas S, Weber J, Hwu P, Radvanyi L. Co-stimulation through 4-1BB/CD137 improves the expansion and function of CD8(+) melanoma tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes for adoptive T-cell therapy. PLoS One. 2013 Sep;8(4):e60031. Pubmedid: 23560068. Pmcid: PMC3613355.
  • Chacon JA, Pilon-Thomas S, Sarnaik AA, Radvanyi LG. Continuous 4-1BB co-stimulatory signals for the optimal expansion of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes for adoptive T-cell therapy. Oncoimmunology. 2013 Sep;2(9):e25581. Pubmedid: 24319633. Pmcid: PMC3850170.
  • Radvanyi L, Pilon-Thomas S, Peng W, Sarnaik A, Mulé JJ, Weber J, Hwu P. Antagonist antibodies to PD-1 and B7-H1 (PD-L1) in the treatment of advanced human cancer--letter. Clin Cancer Res. 2013 Oct;19(19):5541. Pubmedid: 24048330. Pmcid: PMC3823378.
  • Ghansah T, Vohra N, Kinney K, Weber A, Kodumudi K, Springett G, Sarnaik AA, Pilon-Thomas S. Dendritic cell immunotherapy combined with gemcitabine chemotherapy enhances survival in a murine model of pancreatic carcinoma. Cancer Immunol Immun. 2013 Jun;62(6):1083-1091. Pubmedid: 23604104. Pmcid: PMC3666559.
  • Toomey PG, Vohra NA, Ghansah T, Sarnaik AA, Pilon-Thomas SA. Immunotherapy for gastrointestinal malignancies. Cancer Control. 2013 Jan;20(1):32-42. Pubmedid: 23302905. Pmcid: PMC4761871.
  • Pilon-Thomas S, Kuhn L, Ellwanger S, Janssen W, Royster E, Marzban S, Kudchadkar R, Zager J, Gibney G, Sondak VK, Weber J, Mulé JJ, Sarnaik AA. Efficacy of adoptive cell transfer of tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes after lymphopenia induction for metastatic melanoma. J Immunother. 2012 Oct;35(8):615-620. Pubmedid: 22996367. Pmcid: PMC4467830.
  • Kodumudi KN, Weber A, Sarnaik AA, Pilon-Thomas S. Blockade of myeloid-derived suppressor cells after induction of lymphopenia improves adoptive T cell therapy in a murine model of melanoma. J Immunol. 2012 Dec;189(11):5147-5154. Pubmedid: 23100512. Pmcid: PMC3505990.
  • Pilon-Thomas S, Nelson N, Vohra N, Jerald M, Pendleton L, Szekeres K, Ghansah T. Murine pancreatic adenocarcinoma dampens SHIP-1 expression and alters MDSC homeostasis and function. PLoS One. 2012 Apr;6(11):e27729. Pubmedid: 22132131. Pmcid: PMC3222660.
  • Vohra N, Verhaegen M, Martin L, Mackay A, Pilon-Thomas S. TNF-alpha-treated DC exacerbates disease in a murine tumor metastasis model. Cancer Immunol Immun. 2010 May;59(5):729-736. Pubmedid: 19921187. Pmcid: PMC2839058.
  • Radkevich-Brown O, Piechocki MP, Back JB, Weise AM, Pilon-Thomas S, Wei WZ. Intratumoral DNA electroporation induces anti-tumor immunity and tumor regression. Cancer Immunol Immun. 2010 Mar;59(3):409-417. Pubmedid: 19730859. Pmcid: PMC3702174.
  • Matsushita N, Komine H, Grolleau-Julius A, Pilon-Thomas S, Mulé JJ. Targeting MARCO can lead to enhanced dendritic cell motility and anti-melanoma activity. Cancer Immunol Immun. 2010 Jun;59(6):875-884. Pubmedid: 20054688. Pmcid: PMC2861905.
  • Pilon-Thomas S, Mackay A, Vohra N, Mulé JJ. Blockade of programmed death ligand 1 enhances the therapeutic efficacy of combination immunotherapy against melanoma. J Immunol. 2010 Apr;184(7):3442-3449. Pubmedid: 20194714. Pmcid: PMC2913584.
  • Koike N, Pilon-Thomas S, Mulé JJ. Nonmyeloablative chemotherapy followed by T-cell adoptive transfer and dendritic cell-based vaccination results in rejection of established melanoma. J Immunother. 2008 May;31(4):402-412. Pubmedid: 18391755.
  • Matsushita N, Pilon-Thomas SA, Martin LM, Riker AI. Comparative methodologies of regulatory T cell depletion in a murine melanoma model. J Immunol Methods. 2008 Apr;333(1-2):167-179. Pubmedid: 18295790. Pmcid: PMC2577585.
  • Pilon-Thomas S, Verhaegen M, Kuhn L, Riker A, Mule J. Induction of anti-tumor immunity by vaccination with dendritic cells pulsed with anti-CD44 IgG opsonized tumor cells. Cancer Immunol Immun. 2006 Oct;55(10):1238-1246. Pubmedid: 16315029.
  • Kortylewski M, Kujawski M, Wang T, Wei S, Zhang S, Pilon-Thomas S, Niu G, Kay H, Mulé J, Kerr WG, Jove R, Pardoll D, Yu H. Inhibiting Stat3 signaling in the hematopoietic system elicits multicomponent antitumor immunity. Nat Med. 2005 Dec;11(12):1314-1321. Pubmedid: 16288283.
  • Pilon-Thomas S, Verhaegen M, Mule J. Dendritic cell-based therapeutics for breast cancer. Breast Dis. 2004;20:65-71. Pubmedid: 15687708.
  • Asavaroengchai W, Kotera Y, Koike N, Pilon-Thomas S, Mule J. Augmentation of antitumor immune responses after adoptive transfer of bone marrow derived from donors immunized with tumor lysate-pulsed dendritic cells. Biol Blood Marrow Transplant. 2004;10:524-533. Pubmedid: 15282530.
  • Pilon SA, Kelly C, Wei WZ. Broadening of epitope recognition during immune rejection of ErbB-2-positive tumor prevents growth of ErbB-2-negative tumor. J Immunol. 2003 Feb;170(3):1202-1208. Pubmedid: 12538677.
  • Piechocki MP, Ho YS, Pilon S, Wei WZ. Human ErbB-2 (Her-2) transgenic mice: a model system for testing Her-2 based vaccines. J Immunol. 2003 Dec;171(11):5787-5794. Pubmedid: 14634087.
  • Piechocki MP, Pilon SA, Wei WZ. Quantitative measurement of anti-ErbB-2 antibody by flow cytometry and ELISA. J Immunol Methods. 2002 Jan;259(1-2):33-42. Pubmedid: 11730839.
  • Pilon SA, Piechocki MP, Wei WZ. Vaccination with cytoplasmic ErbB-2 DNA protects mice from mammary tumor growth without anti-ErbB-2 antibody. J Immunol. 2001 Sep;167(6):3201-3206. Pubmedid: 11544306.
  • Piechocki MP, Pilon SA, Kelly C, Wei WZ. Degradation signals in ErbB-2 dictate proteasomal processing and immunogenicity and resist protection by cis glycine-alanine repeat. Cell Immunol. 2001 Sep;212(2):138-149. Pubmedid: 11748930.
  • Piechocki MP, Pilon SA, Wei WZ. Complementary antitumor immunity induced by plasmid DNA encoding secreted and cytoplasmic human ErbB-2. J Immunol. 2001 Sep;167(6):3367-3374. Pubmedid: 11544327.
  • Pilon-Thomas S, Li W, Briggs J, Djeu J, Mule J, Riker A. Immunostimulatory effects of CpG-ODN upon dendritic cell-based immunotherapy in a murine melanoma model. J Immunother. 29(4):381-387. Pubmedid: 16799333.