CRI Funded Scientists

Rachel V. Jimenez, PhD, CRI-Genentech Postdoctoral Fellow

Moffitt Cancer Center

Area of Research: All Cancers

Current cancer immunotherapies greatly improve the lives of thousands of patients but many more do not respond or are refractory to these treatments and represent a large population with unmet clinical needs. The difficulty lies within the environment inside the tumor which precludes the immune system from clearing the cancer and also impedes the efficacy of treatments and discouragingly, promising immunotherapies. Said tumor environment is low in oxygen and nutrients creating an inhospitable site that forces immune cells into a pathogenic functional state or else perish. Consequently, the hostile tumor fill with dysfunctional immune cells that can directly interfere with the patients’ natural antitumor immunity and also unfortunately, clinical interventions, resulting in a vicious cycle. One class of these immune cells that become pathogenic are myeloid cells which can blanketly suppress beneficial immune activities. Clinically, few cancer therapies address myeloid cells and they largely aid in the short-term with little long-term protection. To design better therapies directed at tumor myeloid cells, more clarity is needed on which tumor-derived factor(s) drive myeloid cell dysfunction and how myeloid cells respond to and survive in the toxic tumor. Therefore, Dr. Jimenez’s project seeks to address these exact knowledge gaps by identifying a druggable target in tumor myeloid cells to restore their antitumor activities to ultimately boost immunotherapy performance and provide long-lasting remission. Importantly, this pathogenic phenomenon in tumor-associated myeloid cells is not restricted to one cancer type; thus, the findings from Dr. Jimenez’s proposed experiments could broaden immunotherapy application for many patients across cancer types.

Projects and Grants

Targeting mitochondrial stress response mediator LONP1 in tumor infiltrating myeloid cells

Moffitt Cancer Center | All Cancers | 2022 | Paulo Rodriguez, PhD

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