Vivek Verma, PhD, Receives American Cancer Society Grant to Study Metabolic Fitness in Immune Cells for Improving Cancer Immunotherapy

AUSTIN, Minn. – Vivek Verma, PhD, Assistant Professor and section leader of the Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy and Immune Metabolism at The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, has received a grant from the American Cancer Society. The $40,000 American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant will allow Dr. Verma and his team to study the effects of metabolism in CD8 T cells, which could improve cancer immunotherapy treatment approaches.

CD8 T cells are a type of white blood cells that play a very important role in the immune system. These cells are cytotoxic, meaning that they are toxic to virus-infected cells and cancer cells. The anti-viral or anti-cancer activities of these cells depends on their metabolic fitness. Cells that are metabolically fit are exhausted prematurely and die, without killing the cancer cell or the virus infected cells. The success of cancer immunotherapy, a new and potent anti-cancer approach, depends on the metabolic fitness of CD8 T cells.

“Currently, there are not many methods available that can be used for targeting cellular metabolism,” said Dr. Verma. “This study will allow us to work on developing a molecule with the potential to improve CD8 T cell metabolism with the goal of improving the clinical benefit from cancer immunotherapy.”

Immunotherapy has great potential for producing long term responses without the toxicities caused by other cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Institutional Research Grants from the American Cancer Society provide seed money for newly independent investigators to initiate cancer research projects. The intent is to support junior faculty in initiating cancer research projects so they can obtain preliminary results that will enable them to compete successfully for national research grants.



The Hormel Institute is an independent biomedical research department within the University of Minnesota’s Office of the Vice President for Research. Collaborative research partners include Masonic Cancer Center UMN (a Comprehensive Cancer Center as designated by the National Cancer Institute, N.I.H.), Mayo Clinic, and many other leading research centers worldwide. The Hormel Institute, which tripled in size in 2008 and doubled again in size in 2016, is home to some of the world’s most cutting-edge research technologies and expert scientists. Over the next few years, The Hormel Institute will broaden its impact through innovative, world class research in its quest to improve human health.