News Release

LSU Health New Orleans discovery deemed cancer research landmark

Grant and Award Announcement

Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center

New Orleans, LA – A publication detailing a research breakthrough by faculty at LSU Health New Orleans’ Cancer Center has just been selected as one of 24 Cancer Research Landmarks Papers. In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act, the American Association for Cancer Research created the Cancer Research Landmarks series. The series highlights pivotal National Cancer Institute-funded basic, translational, and clinical studies published in Cancer Research over the last 50 years, with commentaries reflecting on how these discoveries impacted the trajectory of the field.

            The LSU Health New Orleans paper reported a key discovery that significantly advanced the field of cancer immunotherapy.

            “The patient’s own immune system has been used to effectively treat several types of cancer including melanoma, kidney, lung, cervical, head and neck and others,” notes Dr. Ochoa, Chair of Interdisciplinary Oncology and Deputy Director of the LSU Health New Orleans-LCMC Cancer Center. “This form of treatment is not effective in all patients because cancer cells have developed unique ways of ‘escaping’ the immune response. “

            In 2004, Drs. Paulo Rodriguez (now at the Moffitt Cancer Center), Jovanny Zabaleta, Arnold Zea and Augusto Ochoa, among others, showed that cells found inside tumors called myeloid-derived suppressor cells, or MDSC for short, produced an enzyme called Arginase 1 that blocked the ability of Killer T cells to eliminate cancerous cells. This unique finding has led to a better understanding of how tumors can evade the immune response and has opened new research avenues to determine how to block the effects of MDSC and Arginase 1.

            In the accompanying commentary, Dmitry I. Gabrilovich writes, “Rodriguez and colleagues showed an important biological phenomenon that became a mainstream in the field: biochemical differences between myeloid cells in tumor tissues and in lymphoid organs. This remarkable paper was published at the time when the existence of separate groups of myeloid cells with immune-suppressive activity was not accepted by most of the investigators. It demonstrated one mechanism, by which these cells could suppress T-cell function in cancer. In addition, this was one of the first reports demonstrating the possibility of therapeutic regulation of immune-suppressive tumor microenvironment to limit tumor progression. It helped to open a floodgate of studies that explored the biology of immune-suppressive microenvironment in cancer, which eventually led to the acceptance of the paradigm of immune-suppressive myeloid cells.”

            “My team has had incredible support from LSU to carry out cutting-edge research that has allowed our work to be selected as one of the Landmark Publications in Cancer Research,” remarks Ochoa, who also holds the Al Copeland - Cancer Crusaders Chair. “We are grateful for their support and for allowing us to have a first-class research team of investigators.” 

            “Inclusion in the select group of scientists who have changed the course of cancer evidences the excellence of our faculty who have dedicated themselves to solving one of society’s most devastating diseases,” notes Dr. Steve Nelson, LSU Health New Orleans Interim Chancellor. “We are so proud of them and this most recent achievement.”


LSU Health New Orleans (LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans) educates Louisiana's health care professionals. The state's flagship health sciences university, LSU Health New Orleans includes a School of Medicine with branch campuses in Baton Rouge and Lafayette, the state's only School of Dentistry, Louisiana's only public School of Public Health, and Schools of Allied Health Professions, Nursing, and Graduate Studies. LSU Health New Orleans faculty take care of patients in public and private hospitals and clinics throughout the region. In the vanguard of biosciences research in a number of areas in a worldwide arena, the LSU Health New Orleans research enterprise generates jobs and enormous economic impact. LSU Health New Orleans faculty have made lifesaving discoveries and continue to work to prevent, advance treatment, or cure disease. To learn more, visit,, or      



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