In the Spotlight: Lawrence G. Lum, MD, DSC

Arming Cells to Destroy Cancer

UVA is pioneering a new way to fight cancer, thanks to the recruitment of Dr. Lawrence Lum. Lum’s cancer-fighting immunotherapy has the potential to destroy cancer cells in various parts of the body, and possibly even target immune-related diseases beyond cancer—all on an outpatient basis.

Cancer immunotherapy works by utilizing a patient’s T cells, which are already programmed to destroy abnormal cells. Grown in the laboratory, the T cells are then directed to target cancer cells. Lum’s method is unique in how he directs the T cells by linking two antibodies that bind to both T cells and tumor cells and form a killing bridge between the two. Development of this targeting platform allows the procedure to be done simply and adapted quickly to different cancers. Infusions of the targeted T cells create a lasting immunity by vaccinating patients against their own tumors.


With his combination of clinical and research skills, Lum exemplifies a new and growing breed of physicians who are actively involved in research. David Wilkes, MD, dean of UVA’s School of Medicine, is committed to bringing more physician-scientists on board, aiming for 32 strategic hires in the next four years. These recruits will fall in cancer, neurosciences, and cardiovascular disease, and in the growing disciplines of organ transplant, regenerative medicine, metabolic disorders, and precision medicine.

“By growing our team of exceptional physician-scientists, we stand poised to bridge the gap between world-class science and breakthrough innovation for patients,” says Wilkes.

The school hopes to join with philanthropic partners to accelerate progress on these recruitments that will lead to new treatments and therapies for patients.

“This will put UVA on the map. We’ll be up there with the top ten centers in the nation in cellular therapy. That’s good news for patients everywhere.”
Lawrence G. Lum


Lum has spent his career seeking innovative treatments for patients. As a young man, he dreamt of being like Albert Schweitzer, a Nobel prize-winning physician, musician, theologian, and researcher. He wanted to make a difference. At UVA, he will collaborate with talented colleagues and build a pioneering cell therapy program. But his first priorities are to get clinical trials up and running for breast cancer, neuroblastoma (a childhood cancer), and pancreatic cancer, so he can see a drug he has pioneered be approved for general use.

“With UVA’s support, I have the opportunity to help real patients and get this drug approved by FDA,” says Lum. “That’s following the dream and making a difference.”