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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, Knoxville, 1993

Selected Grants


Beasley, Georgia M., Aaron D. Therien, Eda K. Holl, Rami Al-Rohil, Maria Angelica Selim, Nellie E. Farrow, Liuliu Pan, et al. “Dissecting the immune landscape of tumor draining lymph nodes in melanoma with high-plex spatially resolved protein detection.” Cancer Immunol Immunother, August 19, 2020.

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Eteshola, Elias O. U., Karenia Landa, E Shelley Hwang, Angelo Moreno, Smita K. Nair, and Bruce A. Sullenger. “Blocking proinvasive signaling and inflammatory activation in triple-negative breast cancer with nucleic-acid scavengers (NAS).” In Cancer Immunology Research, 8:76–76. AMER ASSOC CANCER RESEARCH, 2020.


Huang, Min-Nung, Lowell T. Nicholson, Kristen A. Batich, Adam M. Swartz, David Kopin, Sebastian Wellford, Vijay K. Prabhakar, et al. “Antigen-loaded monocyte administration induces potent therapeutic antitumor T cell responses.” J Clin Invest 130, no. 2 (February 3, 2020): 774–88.

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Mosaheb, Mubeen M., Elena Y. Dobrikova, Michael C. Brown, Yuanfan Yang, Jana Cable, Hideho Okada, Smita K. Nair, Darell D. Bigner, David M. Ashley, and Matthias Gromeier. “Genetically stable poliovirus vectors activate dendritic cells and prime antitumor CD8 T cell immunity.” Nat Commun 11, no. 1 (January 27, 2020): 524.

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Holl, E. K., J. C. Routh, A. W. Johnston, V. Frazier, H. E. Rice, E. T. Tracy, and S. K. Nair. “Immune expression in children with Wilms tumor: a pilot study.” J Pediatr Urol 15, no. 5 (October 2019): 441.e1-441.e8.

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Eteshola, Elias O., Ibtehaj A. Naqvi, Ruwan Gunaratne, Angelo Moreno, Smita K. Nair, and Bruce A. Sullenger. “Abstract 4515: Utilizing nucleic-acid scavengers (NASs) to inhibit proinflammatory and proinvasive signaling in triple-negative breast cancer.” In Tumor Biology. American Association for Cancer Research, 2019.

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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): 142.

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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): 1767.

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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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