CRI Funded Scientists

Yeara Jo, PhD, CRI-Amgen Postdoctoral Fellow

University of California, Berkeley

Area of Research: All Cancers

Healthy cells in our body express MHC I molecules, while many tumor cells or cells infected with viruses lose MHC I molecules. Natural killer (NK) cells circulate throughout the body and constantly evaluate MHC I expression on other cells. When NK cells recognize cells that have less MHC I on their surface compared to other cells in the body, they target these cells for destruction. Therefore, at early stages of cancer where a few tumor cells start to lose MHC I, NK cells can easily detect and kill these cells. However, as cancer progresses and more tumor cells lose MHC I, NK cells are overwhelmed and are rendered incapable of killing the MHC I deficient tumor cells. Cytokines are small proteins that can act on cells and change their function. Indeed, several cytokines can restore the ability of NK cells to kill tumor cells, but they are effective in some, but not all cancers. Currently, there is a lack of understanding of the events that happen inside NK cells when they lose their ability to kill tumor cells or regain their anti-cancer capacity upon cytokine treatment, so Dr. Yeara Jo is utilizing cancer models to define the associated mechanisms. This study aims to uncover strategies that can be used to improve the efficacy of existing cytokine therapies as well as to discover novel molecules or genes inside NK cells that can be targeted to reinvigorate NK cell function and synergize with cytokine treatments.

Projects and Grants

Molecular mechanisms underlying NK cell anergy and reprogrammability

University of California, Berkeley | All Cancers | 2021 | David H. Raulet, PhD

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