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Smita Kesavan Nair, PhD

Professor in Surgery
Professor in Pathology
Professor in Neurosurgery
Office: Room 1077, Msrb-2, 106 Research Drive, Durham, NC 27710
Campus Mail: DUMC Box 103035 Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710

I have 22 years of experience in the field of cancer vaccines and immunotherapy and I am an accomplished T cell immunologist. Laboratory website:

Current projects in the Nair Laboratory:
1] Dendritic cell vaccines using tumor-antigen encoding RNA (mRNA, total tumor RNA, amplified tumor mRNA)
2] Local immune receptor modulation using mRNA that encodes for antibodies, receptor-ligands, cytokines, chemokines and toll-like receptors (current target list: CTLA4, GITR, PD1, TIM3, LAG3, OX40 and 41BB)
3] Combination therapies for cancer: cytotoxic therapy (radiation, chemo and oncolytic poliovirus therapy) with dendritic cell-based vaccines and immune checkpoint blockade
4] Adoptive T cell therapy using tumor RNA-transfected dendritic cells to expand tumor-specific T cells ex vivo
5] Adoptive T cell therapy using PSMA CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) RNA-transfected T cells
6] Direct injection of tumor antigen encoding RNA (targeting antigens to dendric cells in vivo using nanoparticles and aptamers)

Education and Training

  • Ph.D., University of Tennessee at Knoxville, 1993

Selected Grants


Chandramohan, Vidyalakshmi, Xuhui Bao, Xin Yu, Scott Parker, Charlotte McDowall, Yen-Rei Yu, Patrick Healy, et al. “Improved efficacy against malignant brain tumors with EGFRwt/EGFRvIII targeting immunotoxin and checkpoint inhibitor combinations..” J Immunother Cancer 7, no. 1 (May 29, 2019).

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Zhang, Xiaojie, Kathleen A. Ashcraft, Allison Betof Warner, Smita K. Nair, and Mark W. Dewhirst. “Can Exercise-Induced Modulation of the Tumor Physiologic Microenvironment Improve Antitumor Immunity?.” Cancer Res 79, no. 10 (May 15, 2019): 2447–56.

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Holl, Eda K., Victoria N. Frazier, Karenia Landa, Georgia M. Beasley, E Shelley Hwang, and Smita K. Nair. “Examining Peripheral and Tumor Cellular Immunome in Patients With Cancer..” Front Immunol 10 (2019).

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Force, Jeremy, Lynn J. Howie, Sara E. Abbott, Rex Bentley, P Kelly Marcom, Gretchen Kimmick, Kelly Westbrook, et al. “Early Stage HER2-Positive Breast Cancers Not Achieving a pCR From Neoadjuvant Trastuzumab- or Pertuzumab-Based Regimens Have an Immunosuppressive Phenotype..” Clin Breast Cancer 18, no. 5 (October 2018): 410–17.

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Brown, Michael C., Eda K. Holl, David Boczkowski, Elena Dobrikova, Mubeen Mosaheb, Vidya Chandramohan, Darell D. Bigner, Matthias Gromeier, and Smita K. Nair. “Abstract A79: Cancer immunotherapy with recombinant poliovirus induces IFN-dominant activation of antigen-presenting cells and tumor antigen-specific CTLs.” In Other Topics. American Association for Cancer Research, 2018.

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Desjardins, Annick, Matthias Gromeier, James E. Herndon, Nike Beaubier, Dani P. Bolognesi, Allan H. Friedman, Henry S. Friedman, et al. “Recurrent Glioblastoma Treated with Recombinant Poliovirus..” N Engl J Med 379, no. 2 (July 12, 2018): 150–61.

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Holl, Eda K., Victoria Frazier, David Boczkowski, Bruce Sullenger, and Smita K. Nair. “Targeting inflammation to prevent breast cancer metastasis.” In Journal of Immunology, Vol. 200. AMER ASSOC IMMUNOLOGISTS, 2018.


Zhao, Fei, Christine Xiao, Kathy S. Evans, Tbalamayooran Theivanthiran, Nicholas DeVito, Alisha Holtzhausen, Juan Liu, et al. “Paracrine Wnt5a-β-Catenin Signaling Triggers a Metabolic Program that Drives Dendritic Cell Tolerization..” Immunity 48, no. 1 (January 16, 2018): 147-160.e7.

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