Big Ideas

W. Martin Kast, Ph.D.

October 5, 2011

In 2003, Dr. W. Martin Kast, professor at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California, was awarded a Translational Grant to explore a new approach for dendritic cell-based cancer immunotherapy for cervical cancer. In the past eight years, Kast and his team have been focusing on the behavior of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes cervical cancer.

Kast leveraged his 2003 Translational Grant to procure major subsequent funding through two grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) totaling $2.6 million. Highly accomplished, Kast has published more than 250 articles and holds 18 patents. Most recently, he was named the 2010 Eminent Scientist of the Year by the International Research Promotion Council and 2010 North American Immunologist by the World Scientists’ Forum.

The V Foundation’s grant has led to major discoveries for Kast’s team, including the identification of the uptake receptor for HPV and an escape-route of HPV from the immune system. Kast explained that the mechanism of immune escape for the virus is the “Achilles’ Heel of the virus,” and this is now the focal point of his research. Kast is currently developing a therapeutic vaccine for HPV-induced cervical cancer and is leading the world in research for a cream that can be used for HPV infections.

The V Foundation grant has not only helped Kast generate more funding from the NIH, but it has also allowed him to train his graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, who are currently multiplying his research efforts in their own laboratories.

Kast is passionate about the need for funding in cancer research and is incredibly supportive of The V Foundation.

“Everyone in this life will either be confronted directly or indirectly by cancer,” Kast said. “The direct correlation between funding levels and medical research discoveries really indicates that the more funding you put into [research], the more lives you save. You can hardly imagine how important your contributions are for making cancer a disease of the past.”

Kast is a professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology, Obstetrics and Gynecology and Urology. This is his eighth year at the Keck School of Medicine.