As tumors progress, they invariably interact with immune cells, and must successfully evade them if the cancer is to grow to a malignant stage. However, the mechanisms by which tumors are able to evade this immune surveillance are not fully understood. Therefore, Dr. Zhang aims to investigate this phenomenon in order to improve our understanding of the relationship between cancer and the immune system. Specifically, he is exploring how nutrients impact the ability of immune cells to recognize and eliminate cancer cells.
While a lack of nutrients can suppress the growth of tumor cells, nutrient sensing pathways are frequently mutated in cancer. In a mouse cancer model mimicking these cancer mutations, Dr. Zhang’s team showed that anti-tumor immune cells are profoundly depleted and tumors grew at an accelerated pace. Now, he is investigating how nutrient dependent activation of the mTORC1 pathway in tumor cells acts to suppress anti-tumor immune response as well as exploring approaches to re-activate the immune cells within tumors. Overall, Dr. Zhang hopes that his work can uncover how metabolism-related mutations drive tumor immune evasion as well as identify novel strategies to develop new cancer immunotherapy strategies.
Projects and Grants
Nutrient Sensing and mTORC1 Signaling in Control of Tumor Immune Evasion
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center | All Cancers | 2020 | Ming O. Li, Ph.D.
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