The production of proteins, which are encoded in RNA molecules, determines the activity of T cells and whether they will help or hinder cancer progression. However, some RNAs are bound and degraded before they can be translated into their corresponding protein, which in turn influences T cell behavior. Dr. Litterman is working to better understand this process, and he’s developed a method―GCLiPP―to identify and map the different binding sites on the RNA molecules in T cells, which he has used to classify 27,000 different binding regions. Furthermore, Dr. Litterman has determined how these sequences affect the stability of the RNAs that control T cells’ cancer-killing activity, and how they’re regulated. His continued work may identify new targets that could be used to improve immunotherapy.
When I was a graduate student it seemed to me like cancer immunotherapy was the best chance we had to actually start to cure solid tumors. My Ph.D. mentor died of metastatic melanoma when he was 35 and this drives me in my research; it makes me hope that someday we can manipulate the immune system so other people don’t have to go through this.
Projects and Grants
A global map of mRNA regulatory elements in CD8+ T cells
University of California, San Francisco | Lymphoma, Melanoma | 2015 | K. Mark Ansel, Ph.D.
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