Research: Senior Leadership
James J. Mulé, IPhDAssociate Center Director, Translational Science
Dr. Mulé is the Associate Center Director for Translational Science and the Michael McGillicuddy Endowed Chair for Melanoma Research and Treatment at Moffitt Cancer Center. Dr. Mulé's role as Associate Center Director, Translational Science is, in part, to oversee Moffitt's four, transdisciplinary Centers of Excellence, the Cell Therapies Facility, as well as the Office of Innovation and Industry Alliances. He acts as a facilitator to translate laboratory-based research into viable treatments for cancer patient benefit. He is adept at fostering a collaborative environment that weaves laboratory scientists and clinicians together into a singular effort to develop new or improved prevention and treatment interventions across the cancer care continuum, which is evident even in his own research efforts.
Dr. Mulé, who was designated a "Master of Immunology" by the American Association for Cancer Research's journal Cancer Immunology Research, is recognized for his research and clinical trial contributions to cancer immunotherapy, particularly in solid tumors. His clinical research group is involved in developing and validating genomic signatures of immunotherapy response, as well as vaccine strategies (e.g., with dendritic cells) and other approaches (e.g., with adoptive T cells) to recognize and destroy tumors. The translational work in these areas has helped to develop new treatments for advanced cancer patients.
Dr. Mulé serves on Advisory Boards of numerous biotechnology companies and publicly held companies. He remains a long-standing special government employee to the FDA (CBER) and the NCI. He is a member of NCI Subcommittee A – Cancer Centers. He was Chair of the Cellular, Tissue, and Gene Therapy Advisory Committee of CBER, FDA. He currently serves on the advisory boards of several NCI-designated Cancer Centers and was a member of the NCI Director's Board of Scientific Counselors (BSC-A). Dr. Mulé also serves on the Editorial Boards of several peer-reviewed journals, including Scientific Reports (nature.com), Journal of Immunotherapy, and Cancer Immunology Research (AACR). He has published nearly 200 articles in the areas of cancer vaccines and adoptive immunotherapy, and is a continuously funded investigator for nearly 25 years.
Dr. Mulé received a special individual Ph.D. (IPh.D.) degree in Tumor Immunology from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington, Seattle, Washington. He then received his formal post-graduate training at the Surgery Branch, Division of Cancer Treatment, National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland, where he became a Senior Investigator with tenure. Dr. Mulé moved to Palo Alto, CA, where he helped to launch and scientifically direct two biotechnology companies. He then moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan to become the Director of the Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy Program at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Maude T. Lane Endowed Professor of Surgery with tenure, Department of Surgery, Inaugural Director of the Rackham Graduate School's Graduate Program in Immunology, and Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine.
In a collaboration with Natalie Artzi at MIT/Harvard, bioengineered, 3D printed and manufactured biomaterial 'designer' lymph node platforms are being developed that function as therapeutic devices to deliver, stimulate and expand immune lymphocytes (e.g., TILs) and/or DCs. In addition, the inert nature of bio-materials also allows for the implementation of microparticle or nanoparticle constructs for controlled release of soluble factors (i.e. chemokines, growth factors). Such platforms should provide sustained environmental queues to augment antigen-presenting cell or lymphocyte longevity, maturation, and activation. The resulting benefit from these 'designer' lymph nodes is that they will be utilized by the host to provide an enhanced, unified or diversified immune system to fight cancer, directly, or in combination with immunotherapeutics to enhance their potency and efficacy.
Agents that activate the immune system in advanced melanoma have significantly improved outcomes, and many patients have long-term responses following immunotherapy treatment. However, there remains a subset of melanoma patients treated with immune-based therapies who do not achieve clinical benefit. Dr. Mulé's research program is focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying both successful and failed immune responses which may help improve immunotherapeutic approaches, with an emphasis on identifying the factors that contribute to tumor cell recognition by immune cells. By conducting a series of mechanistic studies, Dr. Mulé's laboratory has discovered that loss of STING signaling in melanoma is one of the mechanisms that protect tumor cells from immune cell recognition. The STING pathway is known to contribute to the activation of the immune system by stimulating the production of protein messengers called interferons. Current priorities in the lab include the development of strategies that target the STING pathway in tumor cells to improve the efficacy of adoptive cell therapy and other immunotherapies in patients who do not currently benefit from these interventions.