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2016 LRF Scholar: Alex Herrera, MD (Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope)

Alex Herrera, MD

Dr. Herrera's project for the Lymphoma Clinical Research Mentoring Program (LCRMP) tests a combination of pembrolizumab (Keytruda) and vorinostat (Zolinza), a histone deacetylase inhibitor (HDAC), in diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), follicular lymphoma (FL), and Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). While pembrolizumab, an immunotherapy agent that works by inhibiting the programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1), and other PD-1 agents have demonstrated good overall response rates in lymphoma patients, complete responses rates when PD-1 is a single-agent therapy have been relatively low. Dr. Herrera hopes that the combination of a PD-1 inhibitor with an HDAC-inhibitor, which has been shown in recent research to aid the immune system in combating tumor cells, will improve the quality of patent responses. "Given the responses to PD-1 inhibition observed across lymphoma subtypes," Dr. Herrera says, "the addition of vorinostat with PD-1 inhibition may significantly enhance activity and result in deeper and more durable responses."

Dr. Herrera is an Assistant Professor in Hematology and Hemapoietic Cell Tranplantation at the Beckman Research Institute of the City of Hope, a position he obtained in 2015. He received his MD from Harvard Medical School before completing a Hematology/Oncology fellowship at Dana-Farber Cancer Center and moving to City of Hope to complete a second fellowship in Bone Marrow Transplantation. His interest in immunotherapy drugs stems from his experiences working with patients on clinical trials as a fellow. "I became very interested in checkpoint inhibitors after treating a number of patients on clinical trials with these agents and observing how well-tolerated and effective they can be."

Dr. Herrera notes that as an early career researcher, he has been "lucky to have excellent mentors in lymphoma clinical care and clinical research who attracted me to lymphoma and immunotherapy research." He looks forward to participating in the LCRMP as a way to expand his mentoring relationships. "The Foundation's LCRMP is a tremendous opportunity to gain personalized, longitudinal mentorship in lymphoma clinical research from lymphoma experts," Dr. Herrera says. "The experience I gain will be invaluable as I strive to become a leader in lymphoma research."