Wei-Zen Wei






Wei-Zen Wei, Ph.D.
Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute
421 E. Canfield Street, Suite 2226
Detroit, MI 48201


Research Interests:

  • Develop DNA vaccines targeting functional molecules on cancer cells
  • Modulate regulatory T cells to amplify tumor immunity while circumventing autoimmunity
  • Combine cancer vaccination with cryoablation to generate long-term protection

Research Description:
From studying the immunobiology of mouse mammary tumor progression to the molecular mechanism of regulatory T cell activation, my lab translates the findings from basic Immunology and Cancer Biology into potential cancer immunotherapeutic agents. We pioneered human Her-2 DNA vaccines which showed vaccine-induced immune responses in breast cancer patients. Using human Her-2 transgenic mice, we showed superior efficacy of the 2nd generation hybrid vaccines that combine self and heterologous Her-2 DNA into a single regimen which are candidates for further clinical testing. We developed novel test systems to measure concurrent induction of experimental autoimmune thyroiditis during immune rejection of tumors to monitor the activity and potential side effects of cancer immunotherapy. New vaccines and immune modulating strategies, both systemic and in the tumor microenvironment, are being tested continuously toward the goal of cancer eradication. PhD students, post-doctoral fellows and clinician scientist trainees are the driving force of this lab. Opportunities are provided to develop the trainees into independent investigators.

Selected Publications:

Veenstra JJ, Gibson HM, Littrup PJ, Reyes JD, Cher ML, Takashima A, Wei WZ. Cryotherapy with Concurrent CpG Oligonucleotide Treatment Controls Local Tumor Recurrence and Modulates HER2/neu Immunity. Cancer Res. 2014;74:5409-20.

Aurisicchio L, Peruzzi D, Koo G, Wei WZ, La Monica N, Ciliberto G. Immunogenicity and therapeutic efficacy of a dual-component genetic cancer vaccine cotargeting carcinoembryonic antigen and HER2/neu in preclinical models. Hum Gene Ther. 2014;25:121-31.

Piechocki MP, Wu GS, Jones RF, Jacob JB, Gibson H, Ethier SP, Abrams J, Yagita H, Venuprasad K, Wei WZ. Induction of proapoptotic antibodies to triple-negative breast cancer by vaccination with TRAIL death receptor DR5 DNA. Int J Cancer. 2012;131:2562-72.

Burkhardt UE, Sloots A, Jakobi V, Wei WZ, Cavallo F, Kloke BP, Wels WS. IL-15 augments antitumoral activity of an ErbB2/HER2 cancer vaccine targeted to professional antigen-presenting cells. Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2012;61:1473-84

Education and Training:
BS in Plant Pathology (1973): National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
MS in Medical Microbiology (1975): Upstate Medical Center, State University of New York, Syracuse, New York
PhD in Biology (1978): Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island

Cancer Biology Courses Taught:
CB7300 Special Topics F31 Grant Writing Course