While the immune system can perceive tumors as “foreign” and then target and eliminate them, tumors also have tricks that they can use to suppress these immune responses and protect themselves. One way they do this is through the PD-1/PD-L1 checkpoint pathway, which acts as a “brake” on T cells. Checkpoint immunotherapies that block this pathway can unleash T cells and enable them to eliminate cancer, but unfortunately these therapies aren’t yet effective in the majority of patients.
Expanding these immunotherapies to more patients has been challenging due to our incomplete understanding of the PD-1/PD-L1 pathway, so Dr. Zhao aims to improve our understanding of the mechanisms underlying this important immune signaling. Specifically, he is exploring how the expression of certain receptors might be able to act as decoys that can “quench” the immunosuppressive effects of PD-1/PD-L1 and other immune brakes that would prevent T cells from being shut down. Overall, Zhao’s work has the potential to highlight new ways to enhance immune responses against cancer as well as identify novel biomarkers for checkpoint immunotherapy that could help improve care for patients.
Projects and Grants
Investigating the roles of cis-interactions in regulating the PD-1 pathway
University of California, San Diego | All Cancers | 2019 | Enfu Hui, Ph.D.
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