Natural killer cells (NKs) can detect and kill cancer cells; however, immunotherapy has yet to take advantage of them. To address that, Drs. Huntington and Nicholson are examining a pathway that helps control NK cell activity. Previously, they identified an NK cell protein that acts as a checkpoint and blocks their activity, much like PD-1 and CTLA-4 block T cell activity. When this protein was “deleted” in mice, it improved the NKs ability to kill cancer cells and protected the mice against melanoma, prostate cancer, and breast cancer metastasis. Now, Drs. Huntington and Nicholson are characterizing the protein’s interactions within NK cells and confirming their findings in human NK cells. They hope that these insights could then aid the development of NK-targeted immunotherapies for patients.
Understanding how Natural Killer cells function has huge potential for the development of new immunotherapies that will complement existing treatments. The support by CRI has enabled us to begin translating our findings and we look forward to developing new drugs that can harness NK cells to detect and kill cancer.
Projects and Grants
Development of a novel checkpoint inhibitor to enhance tumor immunity
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research (Australia) | Breast Cancer, Melanoma, Prostate Cancer | 2016
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