Richard F. Ambinder, M.D., Ph.D., currently serves as the James B. Murphy Professor of Oncology and the Director of the Division of Hematologic Malignancies at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center. He is program co-leader of the Hematologic Malignancies and Bone Marrow Transplantation Program and leads the AIDS Malignancy Consortium (AMC) site at Johns Hopkins and the AMC Translational Sciences Working Group nationally. Dr. Ambinder graduated from Harvard College with a Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, after which he received his medical degree from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine before completing his residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. He also earned his Ph.D. in pharmacology from the Johns Hopkins University, and completed his oncology fellowship at Johns Hopkins. Within the clinic, Dr. Ambinder is active in the treatment of lymphoma and Kaposi’s sarcoma.
Dr. Ambinder’s research is focused on exploring opportunities to prevent or treat cancer with viral infections. Virus-associated tumors are among the most common malignancies in certain populations and regions. For instance, Burkitt's lymphoma (EBV) and Kaposi's sarcoma (KSHV) are common in equatorial Africa, nasopharyngeal carcinoma (EBV) is common in southern Chinese populations or those with southern Chinese origins, and immunoblastic lymphomas (EBV) are common in immunocompromised patients (organ transplant recipients, AIDS patients, etc). Thus, Dr. Ambinder’s new approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment stand to have a direct impact on the lives of cancer patients around the globe.
Additionally, the study of how viruses can impact these tumors is important in creating model systems for the development of new approaches to cancer care. Currently, many immunotherapies target unidentified antigens, making the measurement of relevant immune responses problematic at best. However, in EBV-associated tumors the antigens are well defined, thus allowing the Ambinder lab to define the epitope-specific cellular immune responses. As a result of this breakthrough, interventions designed to alter immune response —whether they be vaccine based interventions, adoptive immunotherapy interventions, or pharmacologic interventions — may all be assessed in terms of relevant surrogate markers. Much in the same way the treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma with radiotherapy and chemotherapy paved the way for the modern approach to cancer treatment more broadly, the treatment of EBV-associated tumors (including Hodgkin's lymphoma) may pave the way to the more generalized use of these modalities to treat a myriad of cancer types.