Checkpoint immunotherapies that target the “brakes” of the immune system can improve the ability of certain immune cells to fight back against cancers. However, while these new treatments show great promise, they currently only work in a minority of patients that receive them. Basic research into why some patients are resistant to the therapies will aid efforts to improve clinical strategies. Furthermore, holes in our understanding of where the anti-tumor response is started and how these responding cells get to the tumor remain and Dr. Withers’ research will help address this.
Specifically, his project seeks to exploit new models recently developed in the lab that enable us to determine how long cells have been within the tumor and where they have come from. This means that he can address the key question of whether the length of time certain immune cells spend within tumors affects whether they can respond to immunotherapies. Existing approaches have been unable to measure the time cells spend within the tumor and his new approaches may provide important insight. Ultimately, his research will further help to clarify the signals that control the movement of cells into and out of tumors, which will potentially reveal new therapeutic targets to enhance the anti-tumor response. This new information could then help refine existing treatment approaches to ensure more cancer patients can benefit.
Projects and Grants
Investigating the Dynamics of Anti-Tumor Immune Responses to Optimize Immune Checkpoint Blockade
University of Birmingham (UK) | All Cancers | 2020
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