CRI Funded Scientists

Asya Rolls, PhD, CRI-ICRF Immunotherapy Promise Grantee

Israel Institute of Technology

Area of Research: Breast Cancer, Lung Cancer

To fulfill the promise of immunotherapy, we must understand the factors that regulate immune responses against tumors. Recent evidence has shown that nerve cells, or neurons, within the tumor microenvironment are able to influence anti-tumor immunity. In addition to observations that stress reduces the success of immunotherapy, a correlation has also been found between the extent of local nerve activity within tumors and patient outcomes. Thus, Dr. Rolls aims to define neuro-immune interactions within the context of tumors in order to uncover ways to improve immunotherapy as well as uncover novel avenues for therapeutic intervention.

To that end, Dr. Rolls’ team is characterizing the neuronal activity in two mouse models of cancer, specifically lung cancer and breast cancer. Furthermore, her group is working to identify the specific immune cell subsets that recognize the signals produced by neurons, and testing whether their manipulation affects the expression of the immune checkpoints that are targeted by immunotherapy. Finally, her group is using state of the art tools in neuroscience and optogenetics to manipulate the local nerve activity at the tumor site in order to determine how it affects tumor growth and anti-tumor immune responses. By combining experience in neuroscience, immunology and cancer biology, her team is uniquely positioned to address this largely unexplored aspect of cancer biology, and hopefully pave the way for improved approaches for patients in the clinic.

Projects and Grants

Neuronal regulation of anti-tumor immunity

Israel Institute of Technology | Breast Cancer, Lung Cancer | 2020

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