Tumors are complex systems of heterogeneous cancer and non-cancer cells, the last known as tumor stroma or microenvironment. The immune system is a dynamic component of the tumor microenvironment. Immune cells continuously survey and eliminate malignant cells, until stochastic genetic events and epigenetic changes enable the fittest cancer cells to escape anti-tumor immunity and survive. The clinical success of immune checkpoint blockade in several types of cancers provided proof of principle that immune responses can be manipulated to induce long-lasting regression in tumor growth.
Our team studies mechanisms of tumor tolerance, focusing on the discovery of novel molecules that can be targeted in cancer patients. The laboratory has a strong clinical background and works simultaneously with the mouse and human system.
The specific aims of our lab are:
• elucidate the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate adaptive immune responses against cancer-specific antigens
• develop cancer drugs that target novel immunosuppressive molecules
• conduct pre-clinical studies to test the efficacy of immunotherapeutics
To achieve our goals, we utilize in vivo mice models of onco-immunology, including patient-derived tumor xenografts in humanized mice, sophisticated functional immunological assays with murine and patient-derived cells (suppressive assays, cytotoxicity assays, adoptive cell transfers) and high throughput profiling of primary cells (next-generation sequencing technologies).