Skip to Content

Christian M. Capitini, MD

Christian M. Capitini, MD
Assistant Professor

Related Links

UW Health-Find a Doctor

Hematology, Oncology & Bone Marrow Transplant

UW Health Pediatric Hematology & Oncology

UW-Madison Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center (SCRMC)

UW Madison Blood Research Program

Wisconsin Discovery Portal

UW Experts Guide

Contact the Group

(608) 262-2415
ccapitini [at] pediatrics [dot] wisc [dot] edu

1111 Highland Avenue
4137 WIMR
Madison, WI 53705

Our group focuses on using preclinical mouse models of allogeneic blood and marrow transplant (alloBMT) to cure pediatric leukemias and solid tumors with tumor-directed immunotherapeutic therapies such as dendritic cell vaccines, adoptive NK cell and T cell-based infusions. The goal of this research is to both improve presently used biological therapies in clinical alloBMT, such as donor lymphocyte infusion (DLI), as well as develop novel immune-based therapies that have potential to be translated into the clinic.

Hope On Wheels Donates $50,000 to Pediatric Cancer Research

While alloBMT has been used to treat a variety of malignant (and nonmalignant) disorders in children and adults for the last 50 years, the field has struggled with the same major complications: 1. Tumor relapse, 2. Graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD), 3. Infections, and 4. Graft rejection. In particular, relapse remains the largest contributor to mortality after alloBMT, and we still do not have adequate therapies to treat relapsed disease. Immune-based therapies are attractive because relapsed tumors are resistant to chemoradiotherapy, and these traditional therapies have deleterious side effects that can be lifelong.

Centennial Scholars an Investment in Role Models and Diversity

One component of the Immunotherapy & Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Research Group is exploring methods to improve the efficacy of DLI, which is used clinically to treat viruses like CMV or EBV, or treat relapsed leukemia (particularly CML). Allogeneic T cells present in the DLI can potentially recognize the tumor as foreign, treating relapse (termed the graft-versus-tumor or GVT effect), infections or even host T and NK cells to help prevent graft rejection. But all of these benefits come with the potential of inducing GVHD, which is caused by donor T cells attacking normal host tissues such as the liver, skin or gut. Dr. Capitini has previously demonstrated that even subclinical GVHD can have deleterious effects on the efficacy of tumor vaccines as well as promote tumor growth. He also showed a novel approach of modulating GVHD with preservation of anti-tumor responses by DLI and vaccine through usage of T cell depleted bone marrow deficient in gamma interferon receptor signaling. By using this platform, one can give high doses of T cells via DLI without inducing GVHD. Ongoing studies in this laboratory are exploring the mechanism of this effect in donor-derived antigen presenting cells.

Tumor Vaccines After Allogeneic Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplantation - A Lost Hope?
UW Pediatrics Grand Rounds - Christian M. Capitini, MD

While T cells are one element of DLI that have been well studied, there are other populations of lymphocytes that contribute to the GVT effect, such as NK cells. Over the last 10 years, allogeneic NK cells have been shown to play a role in GVT after T cell depleted killer immunoglobulin-like receptors (KIR)-mismatched alloBMT was shown by others to enhance survival in adults with AML. One question is whether infusion of KIR-mismatched allogeneic NK cells as an adoptive cell therapy could replicate this effect, and whether there is benefit in using allogeneic NK cells to target other tumors as well.

Research Group News

  • Dennis EaDennis Ea Receives Pediatric Oncology Student Training Award

    June 2014

    Congratulations to Dennis Ea, a medical student in the laboratory of Christian Capitini, MD, for being awarded a Pediatric Oncology Student Training (POST) Award for $6000 from the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for his proposal “Inhibition of BCL2 in T cell ALL.” Dennis will examine the ability of BCL2 inhibitors to inhibit T cell ALL growth and survival both in vitro and in vivo. He will also determine if BCL2 inhibition makes T cell ALL more amenable to immunotherapy.

  • Lauren ReilLauren Reil Receives Honors and Undergraduate Research Committee Award

    June 2014

    Congratulations to Lauren Reil, an undergraduate student in the lab of Christian Capitini, MD, on her recent award from the Honors and Undergraduate Research Committee of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Lauren's project, "Tracking Natural Killer Cells After Haploidentical Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplants Using Fluorine-19" aims to optimize the non-toxic tracer agent 19F using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to track NK cells in vivo. The lab will monitor the fate of NK cells after their infusion to determine how they induce their anti-tumor effects. Through this grant, Lauren will receive a stipend of $1,500 and her mentor, Dr. Capitini, will receive $500 to cover lab expenses.

  • UW School of Medicine & Public HealthDr. Christian Capitini Awarded Pilot Grant from UW-ICTR

    June 2014

    Christian Capitini, MD is collaborating with Peiman Hematti, MD (Medicine-Hematology/Oncology), on his project, "Infusing MEMs as protection from radiation injury and GVHD." Leveraging local expertise in developing cellular therapies as well as in mesenchymal stem cells, this project will characterize mesenchymal stem cells (MEMs) in vitro by analyzing cell surface molecule expression and cytokine production. This project will also test the potency of human MEMs in 2 xenograft models of radiation injury - a GVHD model induced by human peripheral blood mononuclear cells and a radiation injury model in immunodeficient mice that can tolerate human MEM infusions.

    Results from this proposal may lead to a novel cellular therapy, as being the first clinical indication for human macrophages, that could be applied to medical and nonmedical setting involving radiation, and could be rapidly translatable to the clinic.

  • NIH-NCIChristian Capitini, MD, Receives NIH-NCI Award

    May 2014

    Congratulations to Christian Capitini, MD on receiving a National Institutes of Health-National Cancer Institute (NIH-NCI) Mentored Clinical Scientist Research Career Development Award (K08) for his project entitled "Inhibiting STAT1 as a novel graft-versus-host/graft-versus-leukemia therapy".

    This proposal will provide the foundation for bringing novel drugs that target a molecule called STAT1 as a means of improving the safety and efficacy of bone marrow transplants, and ultimately improving the ability of clinicians to treat patients with high-risk or refractory leukemia. The 4 year award totals $721,440, including 75% protected research time and support of lab expenses.

  • Myriam Bouchlaka, PhDMyriam Bouchlaka, PhD, Receives Cayman's Women in Research Travel Grant

    April 2014

    Congratulations to Myriam Bouchlaka, PhD, for getting the $250 Cayman's Women in Research Travel Grant for her abstract that will be presented at the 2014 American Association for Immunologists Annual Meeting.

    In honor of Women’s History Month, Cayman Chemical offered one woman in research a travel grant to be used towards a conference of her choice.

    Nice work Myriam!

  • American Association of ImmunologistsChristian Capitini, MD, Earns Early Career Faculty Travel Grant from the American Association of Immunologists

    March 2014

    Christian Capitini, MD, recently earned a $1250 Early Career Faculty Travel Grant from the American Association of Immunologists for his abstract entitled "19F-MRI for tracking NK Cells after adoptive transfer" at their 2014 annual meeting.

    AAI Travel Awards and Grants recognize the professional promise of early- and mid-career investigators by assisting them with travel to the AAI annual meeting and travel to learn a new technique.

    Congratulations Christian!

  • Target MeetingsDr. Christian Capitini Chairs Session for World Drug Discovery Conference

    October 2013

    Dr. Christian Capitini was selected as a Session Chair for the Gene/Cell Therapy session at the Target Meeting 3rd World Drug Discovery Online Conference.

    Major sessions of interest included:

    • general pharmaceutical research,
    • small molecule compounds & natural products,
    • drug screening technology,
    • drug delivery & targeting,
    • biotechnology & biopharmaceuticals,
    • preclinical development, and
    • clinical trials.

  • Myriam Bouchlaka, PhDMyriam Bouchlaka, PhD, Presents at the UW Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Center

    October 2013

    Myriam Bouchlaka, PhD presented 19F-MRI for Tracking NK Cells After Adoptive Transfer” at the UW Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Center.

    Myriam's talk focused on children with metastatic solid tumors that remain essentially incurable with conventional chemotherapy and radiation, with no significant improvement in survival over the past three decades.

    Congratulations Myriam!

  • UW School of Medicine & Public HealthDr. Christian Capitini Presents at UW Department of Allergy/Immunology Grand Rounds

    October 2013

    Christian Capitini, MD, discussed “Overcoming GVHD to improve immunotherapy of cancer after allogeneic bone marrow transplant” at the UW Department of Allergy/Immunology Grand Rounds.

    The UW Department of Allergy/Immunology Grand Rounds is a showcase of core educational topics presented by faculty, fellows and invited speakers. Topics relate to the practice of allergy and related clinical and bench research.

  • Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer FundMACC Fund Sponsors 8 UW SMPH Oncology Research Projects

    May 2013

    The Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer Fund has declared that it will fund each of eight separate grant requests made by the Departments of Pediatrics and Human Oncology.

    The grants will fund each project for $100,000 over the next two years.

    Congratulations to all of the researchers involved.

  • Matthew KutzMatthew Kutz Receives St. Baldrick's Summer Fellowship

    May 2013

    Matthew Kutz, a medical student and Shapiro Summer Research Fellow working in the laboratory of Christian Capitini, MD, was recently awarded a St. Baldrick's Summer Fellowship. This $5000 award is for his project "Monitoring of 19F-labeled NK cell trafficking for Cancer Immunotherapy using MRI."

    Mr. Kutz will use a novel approach in tracking natural killer cells in vivo by MRI using a nonradioactive isotope of fluorine. He also hopes to develop protocols that will facilitate NK cell trafficking to, and elimination of, pediatric tumors.

  • NHLBI PACTChristian Capitini, MD, Presents at NHLBI PACT Workshop

    April 2013

    Dr. Capitini presented “Using mouse models to optimize cell therapies for GVL/GVHD” at the NHLBI PACT workshop-Developing cellular therapies: from preclinical safety to clinical evaluation.

    The PACT Education Committee mission is to promote interest in cellular therapy/engineering among physicians and scientists-in-training and to prepare interested individuals for academic careers in cellular therapy/engineering.

    A summary of the talks can be found here.

  • Stand Up to Cancer/St. Baldrick’s FoundationDr. Christian Capitini Named to Pediatric Cancer ‘Dream Team’

    April 2013

    Six Department of Pediatrics faculty and scientists are part of a national pediatric cancer research “Dream Team” that was awarded a multimillion dollar grant to develop new therapies for high-risk childhood cancers.

    The four-year, $15.5 million grant was funded by Stand Up to Cancer, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. UW researchers will receive $340,000 each year to develop novel, advanced treatments that use the body’s own immune system to kill cancer.

    Learn More About the Pediatric Cancer Dream Team

  • Seema Rao, MDSeema Rao, MD, Selected for NIH T32 Training Grant

    January 2013

    Congratulations to Seema Rao, MD, for being selected as a recipient of an NIH T32 Training Grant in Oncology for her proposed studies in allogeneic bone marrow transplant.

    Seema will study the impact of using ex vivo expanded NK cells on graft-versus-tumor responses and GVHD in preclinical models. She will also complete classes in biostatistics, manuscript and grant writing, and training in the responsible conduct of research.

  • Society for Immunotherapy of CancerChristian Capitini, MD, Moderates Professional Development Sessions for Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Annual Meeting

    October 2012

    Dr. Capitini moderated a new “Professional Development Session” offered for early career scientists at the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer Annual Meeting.

    It is the mission of the Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer to improve cancer patient outcomes by advancing the science, development and application of cancer immunology and immunotherapy through our core values of interaction/integration, innovation, translation and leadership in the field.

  • Wisconsin Institutes for DiscoveryDr. Christian Capitini Presents at MATHBIO4: SCALE Symposium

    October 2012

    Dr. Capitini discussed “Tracking 19F-labeled natural killer cells by MRI” at the MATHBIO4: SCALE Symposium at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

    The two-day conference explored bioscience problems that are informed by a broader mathematical or computational treatment of scale to obtain a more complete understanding of the whole that often challenges intuition and expands across different fields of scientific inquiry.

    View Lecture Online

  • Christian Capitini, MD, Presents at Third International Conference on Immunotherapy in Pediatric Oncology

    October 2012

    Dr. Capitini gave an invited oral presentation “Optimizing 19-F MRI for monitoring of adoptive cellular therapies in vivo” at the Third International Conference on Immunotherapy in Pediatric Oncology.

    Major topics of the conference included:

    • cellular therapies using antigen-specific and gene-modified T cells for targeting leukemia and pediatric solid tumors;
    • overcoming hurdles and barriers with regard to immunogenicity, immune escape, and the role of tumor microenvironment;
    • and current antibody/immunoconjugate approaches for the treatment of pediatric malignancies.

  • UW Carbone Cancer CenterDr. Christian Capitini Awarded UWCCC Funding

    August 2012

    Dr. Christian Capitini has received an award of $48,942 from the UWCCC to pursue pilot studies of "Monitoring of 19F-labeled NK cell trafficking for cancer immunotherapy using MRI". This work is developing a new way to label NK cells with a novel Fluorine isotope, that enables sensitive MRI detection.

    This will potentially be of great help in monitoring the activity of NK cell immunotherapy.

  • Mallery OlsenMallery Olsen Receives Pediatric Oncology Student Training Award

    June 2012

    Mallery Olsen, a medical student in the lab of Christian Capitini, MD, was recently awarded a Pediatric Oncology Student Training (POST) award from Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. This $6,000 award is for her project, “Tracking of 19F labelled NK cells by MRI.”

    Because there is no way to track immune cells clinically after they are infused to treat cancer, through this research, Ms. Olsen will optimize a nonradioactive isotope of fluorine as a means of labeling natural killer cells for detection by novel MRI technology.

  • UW School of Medicine & Public HealthDr. Christian Capitini Presents at UW Department of Pediatrics Grand Rounds

    May 2012

    Dr. Capitini presented “Tumor vaccines after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation: a lost hope?” at the UW Department of Pediatrics Grand Rounds.

    The Pediatrics Grand Rounds program features weekly lectures on cutting-edge topics related to the practice of pediatrics. Department faculty, residents, and medical students as well as community-based pediatricians and pediatric specialists benefit from these clinically relevant lectures presented by UW faculty and many guest faculty from around the country.

    View Lecture Online

  • UW School of Medicine & Public HealthDr. Christian Capitini Accepted into the University of Wisconsin Centennial Scholars Program

    March 2012

    Congratulations to Christian Capitini, MD, for his acceptance into the University of Wisconsin Centennial Scholars Program. This program provides a 3-year award of $75,000/year + fringe benefits and offers at least 50% protected research time.

    Dr. Capitini’s research focuses on using models of allogeneic bone marrow transplant to cure pediatric tumors with dendritic cell vaccines, adoptive NK cell and T cell infusions. He is also developing novel therapies for graft-versus-host-disease.

  • Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer FundDr. Christian Capitini Awarded MACC Funding

    December 2011

    Congratulations to Christian M. Capitini, MD, for his recent award of $100,000 from the Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (MACC fund) for “Inhibiting STAT1 as a platform for GVHD resistance and preservation of GVL.”

    Completion of this project will provide evidence in relevant preclinical alloBMT models that using bone marrow-derived cells deficient in STAT1 will create a state of GVHD resistance, allowing the host to tolerate higher doses of DLI, potentially allowing for a more potent GVL effect.

  • Hyundai Hope on WheelsChristian Capitini, MD, Selected as a Hyundai’s Hope on Wheels 2011 Scholar Grant Recipient

    August 2011

    Congratulations to Christian Capitini, MD, who was selected as a recipient of Hyundai’s Hope on Wheels 2011 Scholar Grant. This $50,000 award is for Dr. Capitini’s 1-year project, “Development of STAT1 inhibitors for treating pediatric leukemia and modulation of allogeneic bone marrow transplant.”

    The goal of this project is to investigate the role of STAT1 signaling on donor bone marrow-derived cells in preventing graft versus host disease (GVHD) after allogeneic bone marrow transplant (BMT).


Thus another component of the Immunotherapy & Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Research Group is exploring the biology of expanding allogeneic NK cells ex vivo for treating pediatric tumors after alloBMT. Because of prior studies by others with IL-2, as well as recent efforts to bring other gamma (c) cytokines like IL-15 and IL-21 to the clinic, artificial antigen presenting cells that express costimulatory molecules are being combined with gamma (c) cytokines to stimulate NK cell proliferation and activation ex vivo. Ongoing work is comparing NK cells expanded with a variety of agents against several pediatric tumors in the alloBMT setting. 

Additional Research Activities

  • Basic, translational and clinical research of pediatric cancers
  • Cancer vaccines
  • Cytokines
  • Adoptive cell therapies (T and NK cell infusions)
  • Models of bone marrow transplant
  • Extracorporeal photopheresis
  • Graft-versus-host-disease


Research Opportunities - Graduate Students

For students interested in obtaining a PhD, Dr. Capitini is a trainer for the Cellular and Molecular Pathology (CMP) Graduate Program. For more information, please visit his profile at the CMP website.

Research Opportunities - Postdoctoral Fellows

There are presently no open positions in Dr. Capitini’s laboratory. Interested applicants with experience in cellular immunology, pediatric tumor models and/or bone marrow transplant may send a cover letter and CV to ccapitini [at] pediatrics [dot] wisc [dot] edu for consideration.

Last updated: 08/12/2014
webmaster [at] pediatrics [dot] wisc [dot] edu
Copyright © 2014 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System