Grants - V Scholar Grants - Maine - 2021

Chih-Hao Chang, PhD

We study the response of the immune system to cancer. A type of immune cells, called T cells, play a central role in killing and clearing cancer cells. However, as cancer develops, these cells malfunction, leading to their inability to clear cancer cells, allowing for them to grow out of control. Many therapies used to treat cancer now target those cells, working to enhance their ability to fight cancer cells. One of them is called PD-1 blockade treatment. However, there is much we do not know about this treatment. Due to this, there are many individuals where this therapy does not show any therapeutic effect over traditional cancer treatments. We previously have found that the means by which the immune cells fuel their energy stores (called glucose metabolism) is central to their overall function during cancer development. Some tumors consume many resources to grow as quickly as possible, this prevents immune cells in the area from using these same resources to fuel energy from glucose. Our overarching goal is to determine the mechanism by which these immune cells malfunction due to a lack of resources and how this insufficient level of resources hinders the immune cell response to cancer. The research completed will be instrumental in our understanding of how T cells respond to cancer cells during the progression of disease and treatment.