While T cells are perhaps the most well-known cancer-fighting immune cells, other immune cells—such as natural killer (NK) cells—can also directly kill tumor cells, and provide other benefits as well. For example, NK cells can respond quickly following detection of a tumor and thus are especially adept at controlling cancer that has metastasized, or spread, systemically. They are also able to recognize cancer cells that lose the markers that enable them to evade T cell detection, making them a potentially promising therapeutic target to enhance patient responses to immunotherapies.
However, the mechanisms that enable NK cells to quickly kill cancer cells—as well as those that shut down NK cells—remain poorly understood, so Dr. Mujal aims to characterize them. In particular, she is exploring the role of proteins that bind RNA and how they influence the responsiveness of NK cells against tumors. Ultimately, she hopes that her findings will advance our understanding of the key processes underlying the cancer-killing functions of NK cells and will contribute to the development of novel immunotherapies that harness these powerful immune cells to control cancer in patients.
Projects and Grants
Investigating post-transcriptional regulation of effector proteins in antitumor NK cells
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center | All Cancers | 2020 | Joseph C. Sun, Ph.D.
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