CRI Funded Scientists

Qin Zhu, PhD, CRI Immuno-Informatics Fellow

University of California, San Francisco

Area of Research: All Cancers

Dr. Qin Zhu is creating a technology to map T cell states as well as measure how different therapeutic approaches influence T cell states and responses.

Recent success in T cell-based immunotherapies, including checkpoint inhibitors and CAR T cell therapies, demonstrates these highly versatile immune cells can be powerful cancer fighters. However, improper activation of T cells can lead to severe side effects and may even promote tumor growth. Therefore, improving immunotherapy’s effectiveness requires strategies that can selectively activate or inhibit specific T cell states.

To learn the pharmacological “programming language” of T cells, Dr. Zhu is developing a high-throughput assay to measure the response of T cells to different therapies and cytokines, natural signaling molecules used by cells to communicate. Each T cell’s receptor has a unique DNA sequence, and this natural sequence variability can be utilized to track the change of each individual T cell clone before and after perturbation.

With this mapping, Dr. Zhu plans to define the complex paths T cells take to reach different states and determine how such paths are altered by perturbation. Ultimately, his insights could reveal better ways to nudge T cells into states that allow them to eliminate cancer cells more effectively.

Projects and Grants

T cell state-specific reprogramming of anti-tumor immunity

University of California, San Francisco | All Cancers | 2023 | Zev Gartner, PhD

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