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Sivasubramanian Baskar, PhD

Senior Scientist, National Cancer Institute, NIH

REVIEW

At first, I wish to congratulate Dr. Hanan Polansky for his scientific bravery to take such a unique, novel approach to further stimulate our understanding of the origin and establishment of chronic diseases. The philosophy underscored is an excellent one.

I find the book very challenging as it covers such a wide range of topics such as cell motility, atherosclerosis, autoimmune diseases, cellular signaling, cancer, etc. Therefore, to fully comprehend the underlying common mechanism(s), although explained well, one needs to have reasonable background knowledge in such diverse subjects and an open mind to welcome the thoughts discussed.

With numerous examples and original data from published articles, the author builds the conceptual thinking towards the theme of how endogenous regulatory networks are modulated by foreign genome that enters the host in the form of viral infections or deliberately introduced by various gene transfer methods. For example, the ubiquitous effect of GABP viruses, on par with my research interests, on the sequence of reactions leading to the development of cancer due to compromise of immune surveillance, and on the other hand, hyperactive immune responses leading to the development of autoimmune diseases is very intriguing. The quantitative relationship between sequential events affecting cell motility, antigen uptake, expression of costimulatory molecules, priming of different T cell subpopulations and resulting in opposite outcomes, tolerance versus immunity, is elegantly presented.

The amazing correlation between theoretical predictions and observed in vivo effects seems to bring us a step closer to a deeper understanding of such complex biologic processes. Further experimental research towards validation of the concepts, perhaps in a more direct way, may help develop novel therapeutics for human diseases. From my own perspective, although this book is philosophically sophisticated, it certainly seems to be a stimulator for young students as well experienced minds.

BIOGRAPHY

After obtaining his PhD in Immunology from Madurai University in India, Dr. S. Baskar completed a postdoctoral fellowship in the laboratory of the late Professor Sidney Leskowitz at Tufts University School of Medicine, where he investigated murine T cell responses to synthetic antigens. Later, he studied human T cell responses in allergic patients at Johns Hopkins University and then worked on immunogenetherapy in murine models of cancer at the University of Maryland. At Maryland, he published some pioneering work on T cell costimulation and anti-tumor immunity (e.g. PNAS 1993, JEM 1995). Six years ago, he moved to the National Cancer Institute to pursue an interest in immunotherapy of human cancers. Dr. Baskar is now investigating anti-tumor immunity, primarily T cell responses in patients with B cell malignancy who received experimental custom made vaccines. Some of his major goals include mapping the tumor antigenic epitopes recognized by the T cells in the vaccinated patients, searching for other tumor antigens that may be of potential therapeutic value, and designing better antigen delivery systems, including the use of dendritic cells and recombinant DNA vaccines.

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