2007 Recipient — Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD

Dr. Kunle Odunsi, wearing a white lab coat with inscription "UChicago Medicine"

Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD

Enhancing Immunity to Ovarian Cancer Tumors

Project Summary

Ovarian cancer utilizes a number of strategies to evade attack from the immune system. The goal of Dr. Odunsi’s project is to harness the immune system to improve treatment of ovarian cancer patients. In his study, he will focus on understanding how tumors produce an enzyme called IDO, which during pregnancy allows a fetus to escape a mother’s immune system, and in ovarian cancer acts similarly. He will also study why immune cells become less able to perform their killing function of tumor cells. His findings are likely to generate valuable information that is imperative for successfully utilizing the immune system to promote remission in ovarian cancer patients.

Areas of Research:


Director, University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center
Dean for Oncology, Biological Sciences Division
The Abbvie Foundation Distinguished Service Professor
Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology
University of Chicago

Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, is the Director of the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center (UCCCC), Dean for Oncology in the Biological Sciences Division, and the Abbvie Foundation Distinguished Service Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Chicago. His research in tumor immunology and immunotherapy focuses on mechanisms of immune recognition in human ovarian cancer and the pre-clinical and clinical development of tumor antigen-targeted therapies. Currently he is Co-Principal Investigator on the Roswell Park – University of Chicago Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in Ovarian Cancer. 

As the Director of UCCCC, Dr. Odunsi oversees all programmatic aspects of cancer at the University of Chicago including the three primary missions of research, patient care, and education. He sets the strategic direction of UCCCC, which emphasizes basic, translational, and clinical research efforts; collaborative cancer discovery and care; outreach to and engagement of the catchment area; and expansion of development opportunities for early career and promising cancer researchers. Dr. Odunsi also continues to treat patients and mentor physicians in the clinic.