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Koichi Sakakura

Associate Professor

After graduating Gunma University School of Medicine and registration as MD in 1999, Koichi Sakakura, MD, PhD had trained in Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Gunma University Hospital and its affiliated hospital for 2 years as a resident doctor.

In Gunma University Graduate School of Medicine, he started his carrier as a physician scientist in the field of otology (pediatric acute otitis media and equilibrium) and published 3 scientific paper.  Then his research interest shifted to oncology, especially to cancer immunology.  Under the guidance of his mentor Dr. K. Chikamatsu, Dr. Sakakura earned PhD degree in 2005.  He had served as a clinical fellow in the department in the university hospital for 2 more years.

Until 2007, he had published several articles about cancer immunology with Dr. Chikamatsu in patients with head and neck cancer (HNC): dendritic cells (DC) and NK cells in sentinel lymph nodes, DC maturation and T-cell subsets in circulation of HNC patients, induction of p53 antigen-specific immune response by cytotoxic T cell (CTL) from HNC patients, and immunological characteristics of cancer stem cell.

Dr. Sakakura moved to University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), PA, USA in 2007, worked in Drs. T.L. Whiteside’s and A.B. DeLeo’s labs, and involved in T-cell apoptosis by microvesicles form cancer cells and induction of MAGE-3/CSPG4-specific CTL by DC vaccine.  Then he transferred to Drs. S. Ferrone’s and X. Wang’s lab in UPCI to engage in development of monoclonal antibodies against HLA class II antigen machinery molecules, and in immunohistochemical analyses of tumor antigen CSPG4 in various malignancies.  He was named as a co-author in various high impact journals as Journal of National Cancer Institute and Cancer Research, and had stayed for 3 years in UPCI until 2010.


He returned to Japan as a chief surgeon of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery in National Hospital Organization Shizuoka Medical Center, and awarded Grant-in Aid for Young Scientist from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for the development of cancer immunotherapy utilizing antigen presentation by autophagy.

Dr. Sakakura was engaged as an assistant professor in 2012, and has been as an associate professor since 2016 in Department of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, Gunma University Graduate School of Medicine.  His current interest in cancer immunology is dynamics of myeloid cells such as macrophages, monocytes and myeloid-derived suppressor cells in tumor microenvironments and systemic circulation in patients with HNC.  He has published 40 scientific papers to date mainly in oncology area, including Laboratory Investigation and Cancer Science as a corresponding author, and was recently awarded Grant-in Aid for Scientific Research to elucidate monocyte subsets in HNC patients.  In addition, he has also conducted numerous daily surgeries.


His subspecialty is swallowing disorder, and he is a founder and a chief of Swallow Support Team in Gunma University Hospital.  He is a member of American Association for Cancer Research, American Thyroid Association, American Head and Neck Society and Dysphagia Research Society.

Current Research

  • EMF sensitivity
  • Sleep disorders in the elderly
  • Effect of sleep on patient outcomes
  • Nurse fatigue

Interested topics

  • Features of immune cells in head and neck cancer patients
  • Tumor microenvironment of head and neck cancer
  • Surgery of otorhinolaryngology/head and neck cancer
  • Evaluation, treatment and rehabilitation inpatients with dysphagia
  • Pediatric otolaryngology
  • Infectious disease in children
  • Equilibrium and balance
  • Diagnosis and treatment in patients with dizziness and vertigo
  • Management of multidisciplinary team in mega-hospital
  • Oriental traditional medicine

International collaborations

  • Theresa L. Whiteside, Albert B. DeLeo @ University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute: Cancer vaccine, dendritic cell vaccine, T-cell apoptosis

Soldano Ferrone, XinHui Wang @ Harvard Medical School: Antigen presentation machinery of cancer cells, Cancer antigen, Antibody therapy


2016 -             Dysphagia Research Society – Full Member

2016 -             American Thyroid Association – Active Member

2016 -             Dysphagia Research Society – Associate Member

2016 -             Journal of Neonatal Biology – Editorial Board

2015-              International Symposium on Molecular Cell Biology of Macrophages - Member

2015 -             Japan Research Association for Immunotherapeutics - Member

2014 -             Society for Swallowing and Rehabilitation in Kita-Kanto - Organizer

2012 -             Society for the Study of Clinical Oncology Research in Gunma- Organizer

2012 -             The Society of Swallowing and Dysphagia Japan - Member

2011 -             Japanese Thyroid Association - Member

2011 - 2014      Japanese Society of Thyroid Surgery - Member

2011 - 2012      Shizuoka Ear-Nose-Throat Society (SENT) - Organizer

2011 -             The Japanese Society of Dysphagia Rehabilitation - Member

2010 -             American Association for Cancer Research - Active Member

2005 -             Japan Society for Head and Neck Cancer - Member

2005 -             American Association for Cancer Research - Associate Member

2004 -             Japanese Cancer Association - Member

2003 -             Society for Fundamental Cancer Immunology - Member

2002 -             Japan Society of Immunology and Allergology in Otolaryngology - Member

2001 - 2007      Society for Pediatric Infection and Immunity in Gunma - Organizer

1999 -             The Oto-rhino-laryngological Society of Japan - Member/Specialist