Paul R. Kunk

University of Virginia, Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology, Charlottesville, USA

Title: Pancreatic Cancer Treatment Innovations: Is immunotherapy the answer?


Kunk completed medical school at the University of Tennessee in 2011 and internal medicine training at the University of Virginia in 2014.  He is currently Chief Fellow of Hematology-Oncology at the University of Virginia.  Active in the field of gastrointestinal malignancies, he received the Joesph H. Farrow Research Award to analyze the immune microenvironment of cholangiocarcinoma.  He has published more than 15 papers in reputable journals and presented at several national meetings.


Immunotherapy is an exciting and growing field.  It has caused a paradigm shift in the treatment of metastatic melanoma and its role in many other cancers is growing. With the explosion of novel immune targets, completed and ongoing clinical trials and exciting combination therapies, immunotherapy is becoming ubiquitous in the daily life of an oncologist. Yet pancreatic cancer remains a fatal cancer with few effective therapies. Pancreatic cancer has been considered as a disease that may not be amendable to immunotherapy given the paucity of infiltrating immune cells in the tumor microenvironment. However, mounting evidence suggests that the pancreatic immune microenvironment is more complex, involving cells and receptors that transform the pancreas from its normal architecture into a complex mix of suppressor immune cells and dense extracellular matrix that allows for the unrestricted growth of cancer cells. Despite early studies showing little to activity, more recent studies shown more promising results.