Lerner Research Institute News

Read about the latest advances from Lerner Research Institute scientists, including new findings, grant awards, innovations and collaborations.

Celebrating Dr. Xiaoxiao Ma for National Postdoc Appreciation Week

Dr. Ma, recruited to the Center for Immunotherapy and Precision Immuno-Oncology to help build a world-class program in Immunotherapy research, wins first place - 2022 Postdoctoral Excellence Award.


Xiaoxiao Ma, PhD, came to Cleveland two years ago from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York to continue his postdoctoral training under the mentorship of Timothy A. Chan, MD, PhD, founding chair of the Center for Immunotherapy and Precision Immuno-Oncology. Dr. Ma was recruited to help build a world-class program in immunotherapy research at the Lerner Research Institute at Cleveland Clinic. 

“I’m getting invaluable experience in translational and clinical research, collaborating with colleagues who have diverse backgrounds, knowledge and expertise,” says Dr. Ma. “With the generous support and mentorship from Dr. Chan, I’m also very excited to learn how physicians think about their patients and how basic and translational research can make an impact on those patients.”   

Dr. Ma’s research earned him the first place Postdoctoral Fellow Award for Excellence at the 2022 Lerner Research Institute’s Research Education and Training Center Awards for Excellence ceremony this month. His winning paper, Functional Landscapes of POLE and POLD1 Mutations in Checkpoint Blockade-Dependent Anti-Tumor Immunity, published in Nature Genetics, focuses on investigating the impact of functional mutations in POLE and POLD1 gene on the patient outcomes to immunotherapy and the underlying mechanism.   

“My current research focus is to investigate the genetic and physiological factors that impact tumor immunology and understand what causes response and non-response in a patient during immunotherapy. And then find the right therapy for the right patient,” says Dr. Ma. Drs. Chan and Ma summarized these strategic approaches in their opinion paper titled Solving the Puzzle of What Makes immunotherapies Work, which was recently published online in Trends in Cancer.   

The POLE and POLD1 genes normally govern the fidelity of DNA replication, but certain mutations in these genes make them stop working as they should, increasing a patient’s risk for certain types of cancers. Conversely, they boost the chance of the patient benefiting from immune checkpoint blockade therapy. 

In Dr. Ma’s limited free time, he enjoys going out with friends, reading, hiking, photography and experimenting with new recipes. To relax and kick back, Dr. Ma, a native of China, turns on old episodes of the TV show Friends, which he watched back in high school to help learn English.  

Dr. Ma’s professional goal is to stay in academia and ultimately be hired as faculty and build his own research program. His greater goal is to gain a better understanding and provide insights and discoveries toward the long-term care and health of patients suffering from disease, particularly cancer.  

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