Cancer progression is characterized by gradual dysregulation of the immune system at multiple levels that is considered to directly contribute to unchecked tumor growth. The central theme of the Cancer Immunology (CI) Research Program is to identify mechanisms underlying the suppression of effective anti-tumor immunity that could instruct the development of novel and impactful immunotherapies. Dendritic cells (DCs), potent antigen presenting cells, initiate anti-tumor immune responses, which are subsequently mediated by CD4+ helper cells and cytotoxic T cells. Immunologists have historically focused on characterizing the role of tumor infiltrating T cells (TILs) in restraining tumor growth, but there is emerging evidence that innate immune cells, such as DC and macrophages, are strongly affected by the tumor micro-environment (TME) and major contributors to tumor progression.
The CI Research Program has three main scientific objectives:
- Characterize mechanisms underlying DC and macrophage immune dysregulation in the tumor micro-environment
- Develop preclinical models to reverse innate immune dysfunction and restore immunogenicity to tumor associated antigens
- Translate preclinical discoveries into cancer immunotherapy trials