Our immune system has multiple levels of brakes, known as immune checkpoints, to suppress the activity of T cells and other immune cells. Immune checkpoints are important mechanisms for preventing the immune system from attacking the host’s own cells, but temporarily blocking these checkpoints can enable the immune system to attack tumors. Several immunotherapies that target checkpoints—including CTLA-4, PD-1, and PD-L1—have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of several cancer types, but the majority of cancer patients still do not respond to current checkpoint immunotherapies.
Therefore, Dr. XingXing Zang is exploring a new immune checkpoint pathway that might expand immunotherapy’s benefits to more patients and more cancer types. Importantly, the checkpoint Zang discovered is associated with a variety of cancer types—bladder, bone, breast, colon, esophagus, kidney, liver, lung, melanoma, ovary, pancreas, prostate, and thyroid—and in tumors that don’t’ express the PD-L1 checkpoint. This suggests that it could be particularly beneficial for patients who don’t respond to the current PD-1/PD-L1-targeting immunotherapies. Overall, Zang will be evaluating the effectiveness of targeting this checkpoint in preclinical models and hopes that his work will generate an important proof-of-principle that provides a rationale for moving this therapeutic approach into the clinic.
Projects and Grants
A Novel lmmune Checkpoint Pathway in Human Cancers
Albert Einstein College of Medicine | All Cancers | 2020