Grants - Translational Grants - California - 2017

Judith Varner, Ph.D.

Great strides have been made toward finding cures for cancer, which is expected to strike 1.6 million Americans this year. Although many cancer patients still die from their disease, the overall cancer death rate is declining due to improved detection methods and novel therapies. The exciting development of immune therapy has shown that activating a patient’s own immune system to attack and kill cancer cells can lead to cancer cures and improved life spans for patients with many forms of cancer. However, there are still many patients whose tumors are resistant to immune therapy. We recently found that tumor associated macrophages, immune cells that are found in great numbers in tumors, cause resistance to immune therapy. We identified new drugs that break this resistance to immune therapy; these drugs led to cures in animals with cancer. We will test these drugs in patients with head and neck squamous cell carcinoma, monitoring for changes in biomarkers of immune suppression and tumor progression. We will also identify new immune therapy drug combinations that can improve cancer care. These studies will contribute to the development of novel, effective immune therapies for cancer patients.