Researcher Spotlight: Alex Herrera, MD

Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope


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 lymphomaOne of the two major types of lymphoma that begin in the lymph nodes and tissues of the lymphatic system. All other lymphomas are classified as non-Hodgkin lymphomas. Hodgkin lymphoma has characteristic cell, the Reed-Sternberg cell, seen by the pathologist under the microscope when looking at the tissue from the biopsy. (HL). While pembrolizumab, an immunotherapyTreatments that interact with the immune system.  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 systemOne of the body's defense mechanisms. All lymphomas are a disease of the immune system. in combating tumorAn abnormal mass or swelling of tissue, that can occur  anywhere in the body. 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 CancerAbnormal cell growth that cannot be controlled by the body's natural defenses. Cancerous cells can grow and eventually form tumors. Center and moving to City of Hope to complete a second fellowship in Bone MarrowSpongy material found inside the bones containing stem cells that develop into three types of cells: red blood cells that deliver oxygen to the body and take away carbon dioxide; white blood cells that protect the body from infection; and platelets 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.”