Immunotherapy & Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant Research Group (Capitini)

ccapitini [at]


(608) 262-2415

Mailing Address

1111 Highland Avenue
Madison, WI 53705
United States

Our group focuses on using preclinical models of allogeneic blood and marrow transplant (alloBMT) to cure pediatric cancers. The goal of this research is two-fold: (1) to improve graft-versus-tumor (GVT) effects using adoptive cellular therapies, like T cell and natural killer (NK) cell infusions, and antibody-based approaches that have potential to be translated into the clinic; (2) to reduce or eliminate graft-versus-host-disease (GVHD) through modulation of antigen presenting cells.

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

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 GVT effect. T cells can recognize tumors as foreign, treating any evidence of relapsed disease. Dr. Capitini is a site investigator for clinical trials studying a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-modified T cell for relapsed leukemia.

University of Wisconsin to Test 'Breakthrough' Pediatric Leukemia Treatment

There are other populations of lymphocytes that also contribute to the GVT effect, such as NK cells. Ongoing work is combining NK cells expanded with costimulatory molecules and gamma (c) cytokines with antibodies to stimulate NK cell proliferation and activation against several pediatric tumors in the alloBMT setting. We are also developing imaging techniques to monitor NK cell trafficking in vivo.

UW Research Team Moves Cancer Immunotherapy Another Step Ahead

Engineering and Observing a Graft-vs-Tumor Effect Against Neuroblastoma


All of the potential benefits of using alloBMT to treat cancer comes 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 through usage of T cell depleted bone marrow deficient in gamma interferon receptor signaling. By using this platform, he has identified a molecule called STAT1, which is downstream of the gamma interferon receptor, plays a critical role in regulating plasmacytoid dendritic cells (pDCs) and GVHD. Ongoing work is exploring the impact of pDCs and other antigen presenting cells on GVHD.

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UW Pediatrics Grand Rounds - Christian M. Capitini, MD

Additional Research Activities

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

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

As of July 1, 2017, there is 1 open postdoctoral position in Dr. Capitini’s laboratory. Interested applicants with experience in cellular immunology, tumor models and/or molecular genetics may send a cover letter, CV, and emails for 3 references to ccapitini [at] for consideration.

Research Group News

  • August 2017
    Christian Capitini, MD

    A unique new therapy for children and young adults with a particular form of leukemia received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval on August 30, 2017. American Family Children's Hospital will be one of a handful of certified treatment centers nationwide that offer the treatment, another example of personalized medicine.

    Known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy, Kymriah (tisagenlecleucel) was approved to treat acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) that has resisted other treatment or has relapsed a second time. CAR-T cell therapy engineers a child's immune cells (called T-cells) to express a CAR to attach to and eliminate those leukemia cells that express a specific antigen on their cell surface.

  • June 2017

    The Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer (MACC) Fund has funded each of nine separate grant requests made by the Departments of Pediatrics and Human Oncology. This marks the 40th year of the MACC Fund, and awards from this year have now brought the overall total of contributions to greater than $60 million to childhood cancer research here in Wisconsin. The grants will fund each project for $100,000 over the next two years. Congratulations to all of the researchers involved!

  • November 2016
    Christian Capitini, MD

    Congratulations to Christian Capitini, MD, who received a 2016 Hyundai Hope On Wheels (HHOW) Scholar Award, for his project entitled "Anti-GD2 immunocytokine and NK cell infusions for neuroblastoma." The objective of his project is to use murine models to develop a clinically applicable combined strategy that utilizes an immunocytokine (hu14.18-IL2) to enhance the antitumor effect of immunologically activated, ex-vivo expanded natural killer (NK) cells, and to track the localization of these NK cells using a novel MRI platform. This two-year grant, totaling $250,000, is presented to scientists involved with translational research who work directly with pediatric cancer patients, and recipients are selected based on the promise of their proposed research.

  • July 2016
    Christian M. Capitini, MD

    Congratulations to Krishanu Saha, Principal Investigator, UW Department of Biomedical Engineering, and Co-Principal Investigators Christian Capitini and David Beebe (Department of Biomedical Engineering), on funding of their National Science Foundation (NSF) proposal entitled, "EAGER BIOMANUFACTURING: A Microscale Testbed to Assay and Manufacture CAR T-Cell Immunotherapies." This 2-year award, in the amount of $300,000, will utilize genetically-engineered human T-cells that express chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) to target cancer associated antigens. The investigators propose to develop a flexible, cost-effective, and scalable microscale co-culture system to isolate functional gene-edited CAR T-cells, expand the fraction, and assess in vivo functionality.

  • May 2016

    Congratulations to Christian Capitini, MD, who was recently awarded a $5,000 Summer Fellowship from the St. Baldricks's Foundation, the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants, to fund a student in his lab this summer. Nicole Piscopo, a 2nd year graduate student in the laboratory of Kris Saha, PhD in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at UW, will collaborate with Dr. Capitini's lab on the project, "Tagging CAR T cells for GD2+ cancers," with the goal of using her expertise in using CRISPR-Cas9 to tag chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) used for pediatric cancer. This approach will produce key cell lines that can be used to treat GD2 positive tumors, and could be extended to create other engineered cells of the immune system as a broad off-the-shelf cellular toolkit for pediatric cancers.