Photo of Kepeng  Wang, Ph.D.

Kepeng Wang, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Immunology
Academic Office Location:
UConn Health
263 Farmington Avenue
Farmington, CT 06030-1319
Phone: 860-679-7031

Department of Immunology

Ph.D.Hong Kong University of Science and TechnologyBiochemistry

Post-Graduate Training
PostdoctoralUniversity of California, San DiegoPostdoctoral Fellow

Name of Award/HonorAwarding Organization
Osborn Award for Excellence in Biomedical Science Graduate TeachingUConn Health Graduate School
China Postdoctoral Science Foundation FellowshipChina Postdoctoral Science Foundation
Croucher Foundation FellowshipCroucher Foundation
Name & DescriptionCategoryRoleTypeScopeStart YearEnd Year
CBD Study SectionStudy SectionAd Hoc MemberExternalNational20222022
CII Study SectionStudy SectionAd Hoc MemberExternalNational20212022
National Heart AssociationStudy SectionGrant ReviewerExternalNational20212022
NIH Bench to Bedside Review PanelStudy SectionAd Hoc MemberExternalNational20212022
Department of Defense Peer Reviewed Cancer Research ProgramStudy SectionGrant ReviewerExternalNational20212021
Graduate Admissions CommitteeAdvisory CommitteeMemberUConn HealthLocal2017
American Association of ImmunologistsProfessional/Scientific OrganizationMemberExternalInternational2016
Institutional Biosafety CommitteeAdvisory CommitteeChairUConn HealthLocal2016
American Association for Cancer ResearchProfessional/Scientific OrganizationMemberExternalInternational2014

Chronic inflammation increases cancer risk and accelerates the progression of many malignancies, including those of the lung, stomach, liver and colon. Pro-inflammatory cytokines and tumor-infiltrating myeloid and immune cells play critical roles in all stages of cancer development. Immune infiltrates are evident in most, if not all solid tumors, including those that exhibit no pre-cancer inflammation. It is now clear that the process of tumorigenesis leads to changes in tumor cells and their microenvironment. Such changes shape the quality and magnitude of immune responses to tumors, resulting in the activation of tumor-promoting inflammation and suppression of anti-tumor immunity. The nature of tumor-immune interaction is therefore under intensive study in hope to understand how cancers arise and evolve, and how we can develop novel diagnostic and therapeutic tools for the benefit of human cancer patients.

Research in my lab focuses on the role of inflammation in colorectal cancer development and therapeutic intervention. Among them, IL-17 has been shown to play important roles in immunity against invading pathogens and in chronic inflammation of autoimmune diseases. IL-17 signaling also drives the development of colorectal, breast, pancreatic, and prostate cancers. Our and other people’s previous studies have shown that IL-17 signals to both tumor cells and their environment. Direct engagement of IL-17 promotes tumor cell proliferation and survival, whereas IL-17 signaling on stromal and immune cells seems to regulate tumor-associated inflammation and anti-tumor immunity. Our current study aims to address the relationship between IL-17 mediated inflammation and anti-tumor immunity, and uncover the underlying mechanism by which IL-17 regulates the activity of adaptive and innate immunity in colorectal cancer.

We are also interrogating the involvement of inflammasome signaling in colorectal cancer. Our research shows a novel role of Gasdermin D in colon cancer development. Gasdermin D is an effector protein that mediates inflammasome-induced cell death, and its activation in colorectal tumors may have profound impact on the fate of tumor cells and the nature of tumor microenvironment. 

By studying the role of inflammation in cancer, we hope to provide additional insight on the interaction between tumor cells and their environment, and develop more effective anti-cancer therapies for the benefit of human health.


We are looking for highly motivated postdoctoral fellows for the study of IL-17 and inflammasome signaling in coloretal cancer. 

Accepting Lab Rotation Students: Summer 2022, Fall 2022, and Spring 2023

Our research aims to understand the role of IL-17 in the development, immune regulation, and treatment of colorectal cancer. The study is comprised of the following projects:

1) Define the relationship between IL-17-mediated inflammation and anti-tumor immunity: Our previous study showed that IL-17 is significantly up-regulated in colonic tumors compared to adjacent normal colon tissues during early phase of colorectal cancer development. Ablation of IL-17RA, a receptor for IL-17, resulted in marked reduction in colorectal tumor burden, suggesting a strong tumor-promoting role of IL-17 in the colon. In addition to the direct tumor promoting function of IL-17, we also found that IL-17 suppresses the recruitment and activation of cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) in tumor. In this project we will perform in-depth examination on the role of IL-17 in regulating the recruitment and activation of anti-tumor immunity.

2) Elucidate the mechanism by which IL-17 regulates tumor associated inflammation and immunity: IL-17 is known to promote inflammation and in the case of cancer, inhibit anti-tumor immunity. However the underlying mechanism remained unclear. Using our newly developed Il17ra-flox mice, we will ablate IL-17 signaling in different immune and stromal cells and search for the cellular target of IL-17 signaling in the process of inflammation and immune modulation.

3) Blocking IL-17 as an adjuvant therapy for the treatment of colorectal cancer: We have shown that IL-17 drives the outgrowth of micro-adenomas into large tumors in the gut. Antibody-mediated long-term neutralization of IL-17A resulted in reduced tumor burden. When combined with traditional chemotherapeutic agent 5-fluorouricil (5-FU), IL-17A neutralization improved the outcome of chemotherapy against established colorectal tumors. In the current study, we plan to test the combination of IL-17A or IL-17RA antibodies to different chemotherapeutic agents, including 5-FU, irinotecan and oxaliplatin. In addition, we will combine anti-IL-17 treatment with immune-checkpoint blockers and co-stimulation agonists to test if the inhibition of tumor-associated inflammation can improve the efficacy and/or safety of cancer immune therapy. 

Journal Articles


Title or AbstractTypeSponsor/EventDate/YearLocation
The role of inflammasome pathways in colorectal cancerLectureCANCER RESEARCH & DRUG DEVELOPMENT2021Virtual
CARG-2020, an engineered trivalent immune-modulating oncolytic virus for treatment of cancers and their recurrencePlenary LectureScholars International Webinar on Cancer Research and Therapeutics2021Virtual