In addition to its role in protecting against infection, the immune system is also capable of preventing the development and growth of cancers. Checkpoint immunotherapies that harness the immune system’s power to fight tumors have revolutionized cancer treatment, but are currently only successful in a minority of patients. To develop new treatment approaches we will require a better understanding of how effective immune responses against cancer are generated—and can be induced via therapies. Immune cells known as T cells are central to cancer protection as they can recognize and directly kill cancer cells, but the environments within tumors can cause them to become exhausted and dysfunctional.
A subset of T cells known as resident memory T cells display sustained anti-cancer activity and can potently inhibit cancer progression, but the factors that trigger their formation are not well understood. Therefore, Dr. Park aims to uncover the cellular processes that trigger the development of different T cell subsets during cancer and chronic vial infection in order to identify specific genes or molecules that can be targeted to dissuade dysfunctional T cell formation and enhance protective T cell generation in tumors. These experiments will reveal novel mechanisms regulating T cell biology that could be manipulated to develop new and more effective cancer immunotherapies.
Projects and Grants
Deconvoluting T Cell Residency and Exhaustion in Cancer and Chronic Infection
University of Pennsylvania | All Cancers | 2020 | E. John Wherry, Ph.D.
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