A Lung Cancer Vaccine? Ask Dr. Salehi-Rad

As a recipient of the LCFA Young Investigator Research Grant in Translational Immuno-oncology, Dr. Ramin Salehi-Rad’s goal is to progress towards becoming an independent investigator in the field of translational lung cancer immunology. Translational research is aimed at converting immunology laboratory research results into results that directly benefit humans. Immunotherapy has revolutionized the treatment landscape of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).

However, lasting, permanent, and stable responses to NSCLC immunology treatments are limited to a small group of patients. As such, Dr. Salehi-Rad recognizes the critical need for the development of new strategies where these immunotherapy drugs can do what they are supposed to for more lung cancer cases. Perhaps a lung cancer vaccine?

Dr. Ramin Salehi-Rad

Aiming for UCLA Early On

When Dr, Ramin Salehi-Rad was sixteen years old, he and his family immigrated to the United States from war-torn Iran. Despite being a high school student at the time, he has his sights set on attending UCLA. Ramin was always interested in science and began his college career focusing on chemistry. Once he was exposed to medicine, though, he switched gears.

“My family emigrated to Ventura, California because it was the only place we had any family. our only family. We moved to the United States with a specific goal: the opportunity to attend Universities in America. I knew nothing about US colleges and only knew about UCLA because my cousin had gone there.”

A Lung Cancer Vaccine – One Young Investigator’s Dream

Today, Dr. Salehi-Rad is a lung cancer researcher studying the effects of a novel lung cancer vaccine that uses modified cells from the patient’s own tumor. The effect sensitizes resistant lung cancers to current anti-PD-1 immunotherapies. Through the LCFA Young Investigator grant, Dr. Salehi-Rad hopes to facilitate the development of novel immunotherapeutic strategies to treat lung cancer.

From Chemistry to Oncology

Dr. Ramin Salehi-Rad began his research career as a medicinal chemist. Using a range of chemistry techniques, synthetic organic chemistry, and data analysis tools, medicinal chemists design and create new medicines to combat a particular disease or condition.

As an undergraduate student at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), he conducted research for three years in the laboratory of Robert Armstrong, Ph.D., where he was afforded the opportunity to collaborate with a graduate student on the synthesis of a library of opioid analogs utilizing a solid-phase combinatorial approach. After the departure of the graduate student, Dr. Salehi-Rad independently synthesized and characterized over 100 opioid analogs to complete the project. This research experience confirmed his desire to become a physician-scientist.

From Researcher to MD/PhD

After pursuing a combined MD/Ph.D. degree at UCLA, sponsored by the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP), he obtained his doctoral research training in the laboratory of Michael Jung, Ph.D., in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at UCLA. As a doctoral student, Dr. Salehi-Rad was the recipient of the competitive NIH Chemistry and Biology Interface award. His research focused on the total synthesis of two natural products against cervical cancer.

Dr. Salehi-Rad’s thesis project culminated in multiple peer-reviewed publications, including a manuscript in the Journal of the America Chemical Society. Salehi-Rad credits research experience with the intellectual independence that is necessary for conducting a rigorous scientific investigation. Following medical school, Dr. Salehi-Rad completed a residency in internal medicine as well as a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care. He knew that he wanted to be in cancer research and became interested in lung cancer immunology/immunotherapy as a pulmonary fellow so naturally, Dr. Dubinett was a perfect fit for him as a mentor, “given his expertise in immunology and lung cancer and his extensive track record as a mentor and MOST importantly how kind and supportive he is,” says Dr. Salehi-Rad.

Lots of Research With Some LA Sports Trivia

Dr. Ramin Salehi-Rad is a pulmonologist in Los Angeles, California and is affiliated with UCLA Medical Center. When he is not busy doing his work as a physician, Dr. Salehi-Rad can be found rooting for both the LA Lakers and the Dodgers. A note-worthy trivia fact: When beloved and iconic Los Angeles sports commentator Ross Porter suffered from a cardiac arrest, Dr. Salehi-Rad was the overnight physician who, along with several colleagues, successfully revived him. You can read more about it here.

Dr. Salehi-Rad joins an impressive group of Young Investigators funded through the LCFA/ILCF research grants that have helped direct more than $8 million toward lung cancer research in order to attract the best and the brightest to the field of lung cancer. The goal is to fund the best research to make the largest possible positive impact for patients with lung cancer.


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