CRI Funded Scientists

Thornton W. Thompson, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow

University of Washington

Area of Research: Colorectal Cancer

Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Unfortunately, recent advances in immunotherapy have not benefited the majority of CRC patients, as many of these tumors do not respond to checkpoint blockade or CAR T cell treatments. To develop more effective therapies, a better understanding is required of the interactions between these tumors and the immune system.

Dr. Thompson’s project focuses on tuft cells, a rare cell type located in the lining of the intestine, and their role in CRC. Tuft cells were discovered more than 60 years ago, but their biological functions have only recently been discovered. Tuft cells control the “type 2” intestinal immune response that is best known for being activated upon infection with parasitic worms. However, both tuft cells and the type 2 immune response have recently and unexpectedly been implicated in CRC, with several studies suggesting that increased tuft-type 2 activity is correlated with worse CRC outcomes.

Dr. Thompson will investigate the interaction between tuft cells and CRC using genetically engineered mice that develop spontaneous intestinal cancer. He will focus on formally testing whether tuft cells promote tumor growth, identifying which features of the type 2 immune activity are important for CRC development, and investigating how the activity of tuft cells is controlled in tumors. By revealing how tuft cells function in CRC, these experiments aim to identify which components of tuft cell activity and the immune system should be targeted by next-generation immunotherapies.

Projects and Grants

Tumor tuft cells in a mouse model of Apc-driven intestinal cancer

University of Washington | Colorectal Cancer | 2023 | Jakob von Moltke, PhD

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