Thomas M. Yankee, Pharm.D., Ph.D.
Director, Inflammation & Immunity Module (I2, CORE 810)
Microbiology, Molecular Genetics and Immunology
Pharm.D., University of Illinois at Chicago, 1995
Ph.D., Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, 1999
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In Memory: Thomas M. Yankee
November 15, 1970 - June 23, 2017
Thomas M. Yankee, Pharm.D., Ph.D., of Overland Park, Kansas passed away following surgery for cancer treatment. He joined KUMC in 2005 and was an Associate Professor in the Department of Microbiology, Molecular Genetics, and Immunology with a joint appointment in Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology. He was a valued faculty member who touched many lives at KUMC through his research, teaching and service activities. His investigations into T-cell development and anti-cancer immunotherapy were carried out with colleagues at KUMC and Children's Mercy. He taught immunology to medical and graduate students since his arrival at KUMC and was influential in shaping KU's medical school curriculum. He was the Scientific Director of the Flow Cytometry Core Laboratory and chaired several committees. He is survived by his wife Davia (Christine), his mother Eileen and his brother David.
T cell development and leukemogenesis: T cell homeostasis is critical for maintaining the balance between immune competency, autoimmunity, and malignancy. A key element in T cell homeostasis lies in the ability of the thymus to provide a continuous source of naïve T cells throughout one's life. Using murine and human models, we are defining the stages of T cell development and determining the events that occur at each stage. We focus on the signaling events and transcription factors that drive T cell development because aberrant transcriptional regulation can lead to T cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a heterologous set of diseases that can arise from nearly any stage of T cell development. Our goal is to determine how normal human thymocytes transform into leukemic cells.
Anti-cancer immunotherapy: One function of T cells is to target and destroy tumor cells. We are using chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technology to modify T cells in a manner that make them potent tumor killers. CAR technology involves the fusion of a synthetic molecule that can bind tumor antigens with endogenous signaling proteins that induce the activation of the T cells. The chimeric receptor can be delivered into patient's T cells, which are then reinfused into the patient where they bind to tumor cells and destroy the tumor. We are developing technology with the goal of dramatically improving the efficacy of the CARs.
Immunomodulatory therapy for use in solid organ transplantation and autoimmunity: When T cells attack allografts, allograft rejection can result. Likewise, when T cells attack our own tissues, an autoimmune disease can be the result. We are using T cell-based immunotherapeutic approaches to suppress the immune system to protect allografts and other tissues.
- Mitchell J.L., Seng A., Yankee T.M. Ikaros, Helios, and Aiolos protein levels increase in human thymocytes after β selection. Immunol Res. 2016 Apr;64(2):565-75. doi: 10.1007/s12026-015-8754-x. PMID: 26645971
- Xiong J., Parker B.L., and Yankee T.M. (2014) The combined loss of Gads and CD127 reveals a novel function of Gads prior to TCRb expression. (Immunol. Res.,in press).
- Xiong J., Parker B.L., and Yankee T.M. (2013) IL-7 supports survival of TCRβ-expressing CD4(-) CD8(-) double negative thymocytes. Immunol. 138: 382-91
- Zhang E.Y., Parker B.L., Xiong, J., Chen, A.Y., Qiu, J., Ma, X., and Yankee, T.M. (2011) Depletion and recovery of lymphoid subsets following morphine administration. Brit. J. Pharmocol., 164: 1829-44.
- Zhang E.Y., Parker B.L., and Yankee T.M. (2011) Gads regulates the kinetics of CD8+ T cell activation and proliferation. J. Immunol. 186: 4579-89.
- Xiong J., Armato M.A., Yankee T.M. (2011) Immature single-positive CD8+ thymocytes represent the transition from Notch-dependent to Notch-independent T-cell development. Int. Immunol., 23: 55-64.
- Dalheimer, S.D., Zeng, L., Draves, K.E., Jiwa, N.N., Parrish, T.D., Clark, E.A., and Yankee, T.M. (2009) Gads-deficient thymocytes are blocked at the transitional single positive CD4+ stage. Eur. J. Immunol., 39: 1395.
- Zeng, L., Dalheimer, S.L., and Yankee, T.M. (2007) Gads-/- Mice Reveal Functionally Distinct Subsets of TCRbeta+ CD4-CD8- Double-Negative Thymocytes. J. Immunol. 179: 1013-21.