While immunotherapy has transformed how we treat some cancers, only about 10% of ovarian cancer patients benefit from these novel treatments. This is because the ovarian tumor microenvironment is often tipped in favor of immune-suppressing cells like regulatory T cells (Tregs), which make it difficult for killer T cells to eliminate tumors. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) also play important roles within ovarian tumors, and can either promote or suppress anti-cancer immune activity. Understanding this interplay between MSCs and T cells is paramount to generating new and effective immunotherapies for ovarian cancer patients, which is why Dr. Bruno is exploring how MSCs influence immunity in the ovarian tumor microenvironment and how we might target these cells therapeutically to help patients.
Specifically, as a CRI-V-Foundation CLIP Investigator, Dr. Bruno aims to understand the mechanisms through which MSCs influence Treg activity as well as the formation of tertiary lymphoid structures (TLS), which are immune complexes that can foster anti-cancer immune responses. She’s also investigating whether blocking the interactions between MSCs and Tregs can shift the immune balance to promote tumor elimination. Ultimately, her goal is to understand the specific factors within the ovarian cancer environment that impact this immune balance and to develop treatments to improve patient outcomes.
Projects and Grants
Determining the impact of stromal: immune interactions in the ovarian cancer tumor microenvironment
University of Pittsburgh | Ovarian Cancer | 2021
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