Our immune system has the ability to recognize and kill tumor cells just as it does against invading viruses and bacteria. While “killer” T cells have the capacity to recognize abnormal markers on cancer cells and kill them, tumors can also develop ways to evade or escape the immune system. Current checkpoint immunotherapies are sometimes able to even the playing field and reinvigorate immune responses against cancer, but they don’t eliminate tumors in the majority of patients.
In the quest to develop novel strategies that can benefit new patients, Dr. Escobar is focusing on a subset of “killer” T cells that are long-lived and have stem cell-like properties. In addition to helping identify these cells, she showed that they are essentially required for successful clinical responses to checkpoint immunotherapy. Now, she’s
- testing how newly identified genes regulate the biology of these stem-like killer T cells,
- defining where in the tumor environment these cells reside, which cells they interact with, and what proteins are required for their function and survival, and
- defining how their interactions are changed by checkpoint immunotherapy in patients who respond to immunotherapy compared to those who don’t respond.
The overarching goal of Dr. Escobar’s project is to understand the biology, regulation, and maintenance of these specialized T cells in order to develop novel approaches to improve immunotherapy’s effectiveness.
Projects and Grants
Investigating the role of stem-like CD8+ T cells in cancer immunotherapy
Brigham and Women’s Hospital / Harvard Medical School | All Cancers | 2020 | Ana Carrizosa Anderson, Ph.D.
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