Cancer immunotherapies have demonstrated remarkable success in some cancer types, but their potential impact remains limited by several factors, including a lack of great targets (for cancer vaccines), the tricks tumors employ to shut down immune responses, and the side effects associated with systemic administration of current checkpoint inhibitor immunotherapies. Local delivery of immune-stimulating agents into tumor sites could help overcome some of these challenges by reprogramming the tumor microenvironment into one that supports immune responses against tumors and converts tumor cells into potent “on site” vaccines. With that in mind, Dr. Nissim has shown that cancer cells can be re-programmed with genetic circuits that cause them to produce these immune-stimulating agents. In mice with metastatic ovarian cancer, this approach significantly reduced tumor growth and increased survival.
He is adapting this approach for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) by applying his team’s newly developed, high-throughput screen to identify factors known as Synthetic Promoters with Enhanced Cell-state Specificity (SPECS). Subsequently, he plans to optimize the circuit design and find combinations of immune-related targets in NSCLC, which may provide a significant milestone toward the development of similar clinical approaches for patients with lung cancer and potentially other cancers types.
Projects and Grants
A Synthetic Biology-Based Modality for Lung Cancer Immunotherapy
Hadassah Medical Center (Israel) | Lung Cancer | 2020
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