Killer T cells—which are capable of eliminating damaged and diseased cells—is a key feature of treatment resistance and disease progression in cancers as well as chronic viral infections. Persistent exposure to their targets can cause these killer T cells to become exhausted and dysfunctional, but with checkpoint immunotherapies, which target the “brakes” of T cells, this exhaustion can be overcome by enabling “stem cell-like” T cells to regenerate more killer T cells. The mechanisms that govern this regeneration remain unclear though, so Dr. Ross seeks to identify the factors that control these processes so that this population of T cells can be therapeutically harnessed for reinvigorating immune responses against disease.
Specifically, Ross is investigating the relationship between stem-like killer T cells and dendritic cells that express the XCR1 protein, and will examine whether depleting these dendritic cells affects the distribution of killer T cell populations in virus-infected mice as well as how they impact the effectiveness of checkpoint immunotherapy. The findings from these studies will directly impact our understanding of killer T cell biology and aid the identification of novel mechanisms that can be exploited for the treatment of chronic viral infections and cancer.
Projects and Grants
Role of XCR1 Dendritic Cells in the Generation and Maintenance of Stem Like CD8 T Cells
Emory University | All Cancers | 2020 | Rafi Ahmed, Ph.D.
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