Macrophages are important immune cells that help our bodies maintain homeostasis by performing specialized clean-up and protection duties. They scan for signs of deterioration, damage, or disease. If they detect something amiss, they coordinate a sophisticated response to restore the tissue to its original condition. Unfortunately, cancer can exploit macrophages, and by transforming the tumor microenvironment, promote the tumor’s own development and progression. Macrophages play an especially important role in pancreatic cancer, which is often resistant to current treatments including immunotherapy, so Dr. Zago is exploring what signals control tumor macrophages so that we might trigger better behavior.
Recently, her team recently identified a novel group of proteins—called solute carriers—that are required for macrophages to clear dying cancer cells. Manipulating those proteins increased cancer cell clearance and changed how macrophages behaved after engulfing cancer cells, in a way that suggests it could be conducive to beneficial anti-tumor immune activity. Now, her goal is to determine precisely how these proteins impact cancer cell clearance by macrophages and to determine if this pathway can be targeted therapeutically in this difficult-to-treat cancer.
Projects and Grants
SLC12A2 chloride transporter a potential target to inflame the tumor microenvironment
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center | Pancreatic Cancer | 2021 | Justin Perry, Ph.D.
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