Grants - V Scholar Grants - North Carolina - 2016

Gianna Hammer, Ph.D.

Funded by the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund

The human gut contains trillions of bacteria. In fact, there are more bacteria in the gut than there are cells of the human body. To protect the body from gut bacteria, immune cells constantly battle with gut bacteria. This battle occurs inside every person but in some, this battle can cause tumors to grow. Tumors often grow in the colon and this type of cancer, called colorectal cancer, is the location where most gut bacteria dwell. How can the battle with gut bacteria cause colon tumors to grow? To answer this question we must first find out which immune cells control and design the battle plan.
We think that the battle plan against gut bacteria is designed by a special immune cell, the dendritic cell. There are many different types of dendritic cells and we found that each has a different battle plan. We want to find out which dendritic cells enter colon tumors, which dendritic cell’s battle plan cause tumors to grow, and which battle plan may help fight the tumor. When colon tumors grow we think that gut bacteria force the dendritic cell to make proteins that shield the tumor from attack and help the tumor to grow. We are testing these ideas by changing how dendritic cells respond to gut bacteria, to find out how this changes the battle plan, and to discover how this impacts colon cancer.

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