Vitiligo is an autoimmune disease in which healthy melanocytes responsible for skin color are destroyed by the immune system. Melanoma, on the other hand, is a cancer of these melanocytes. Interestingly, individuals with vitiligo are less likely to get melanoma, and patients with metastatic melanoma who develop vitiligo are more likely to overcome the cancer. In light of this, Dr. Vujkovic-Cvijin seeks to identify what allows immune cells to target melanocytes in vitiligo. He’s looking at vitiligo-associated microbes to see if any enhance anti-melanocyte immunity. Additionally, he’s examining the ability of skin-resident microbes to influence anti-melanocyte immunity in melanoma, and determining if they may enhance immune responses against cancer. Moving forward, Dr. Vujkovic-Cvijin hopes these insights will reveal novel immunotherapy strategies that could be used against melanoma.
We as scientists are increasingly able to understand the interconnectedness of complex biological systems. It is my goal to leverage this growing knowledge to integrate fields for the purpose of discovering breakthrough therapies.
Projects and Grants
Identifying novel microbiome-based immunotherapeutics for melanoma
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIH | Melanoma | 2016 | Yasmine Belkaid, Ph.D.
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