CRI Funded Scientists

David R. Glass, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

Area of Research: Head and Neck Cancer

Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) is a common head and neck cancer usually caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Remarkably, more than 90% of the global population is infected with EBV, but for most people, the life-long infection is harmless because T cells keeps the virus in check. In NPC and other EBV-associated cancers, dormant or dysfunctional T cells fail to destroy the virally-infected cells, which allows them to become cancerous. Checkpoint blockade immunotherapy works by activating T cells to destroy tumor cells, but these therapies have not been effective in many NPC patients. Since we do not understand why some NPC patients fail to respond, it is difficult to predict which patients are good candidates for therapy.

To address this gap in knowledge, Dr. Glass is applying a new DNA-sequencing technology to T cells from NPC patients undergoing checkpoint blockade. This revolutionary technology, termed multi-omic single-cell sequencing, will provide his team with the most comprehensive view of anti-viral/anti-tumor T cells that is currently achievable by science. By applying machine learning to this dataset, he aims to discover which T cells are activated by checkpoint blockade therapy and why some T cells aren’t able to kill EBV-infected tumor cells. These insights will shed light on all virally-associated cancers and guide development of next-generation of checkpoint blockade immunotherapies, as well as enable the identification of biomarkers that can predict patient responses and help doctors identify the best treatment plan for each particular person with NPC.

Projects and Grants

Comprehensive characterization of EBV-specific T cells from NPC patients undergoing checkpoint blockade

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center | Head and Neck Cancer | 2021 | Evan Newell, PhD

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