As an inaugural CRI Lloyd J. Old STAR, Dr. Alexander Marson using sophisticated CRISPR-based genome editing tools to discover genetic programs that could then be “installed” into T cells in order to improve their ability to recognize cancer cells and eliminating tumors.
Human T cells are the main “soliders” of the immune system, and immunotherapies that target or utilize T cells—such as checkpoint inhibitors and adoptive T cell therapies—are revolutionizing cancer treatments, achieving durable responses in many patients with otherwise untreatable disease. However, despite dramatic benefits in some patients, most do not respond to current immunotherapies. Therefore, the goal of Dr. Marson’s research is to discover new critical gene programs in human T cells that can be targeted for novel cancer immunotherapies. To that end, Marson’s lab is pioneering new CRISPR gene editing technologies that offer faster, cheaper, and more precise ways to re-write DNA programs in human immune cells. They have already developed a non-viral CRISPR technology that allows them to “cut” and “paste” large DNA sequences in human immune cells to program next-generation genetically engineered T cell therapies. Now, they are systematically working to discover genetic “programs” that we can code into T cell genomes to make the cells more effective at recognizing cancer cells, overcoming immunosuppression in the tumor micro-environment, and eliminating tumors. They will develop synthetic programs that we can write into T cell genomes with CRISPR to boost their capacity to treat cancer.
Projects and Grants
Reprogramming human immune cells with CRISPR for cancer immunotherapy
University of California, San Francisco | All Cancers | 2019
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