The immune system provides critical protection against cancer. In fact, new patient therapies designed to boost immune defenses (immunotherapies) have greatly improved cancer treatment. T-cells are a key component of the immune system that can protect against tumor growth. Notably, T-cells can be harnessed for use in cancer therapies in the form of ‘adoptive cell therapy’ (ACT). ACT is an exciting approach in which T-cells are administered to a patient to help fight cancer. Encouragingly, ACTs have successfully cured certain cancer types.
However, ACT does not work well for most cancers. In our work supported by the V Foundation, we will test new strategies to improve ACTs against pancreatic cancer, one of the most lethal cancer types. Completion of this project will yield two important outcomes: 1) Increase our understanding of how the immune system fails to control cancer, and 2) Provide important insight into enhancing the effectiveness of ACT in patients with pancreatic cancer. Immune-based therapies offer hope and promise to cancer patients were traditional treatment approaches (such as chemotherapy or surgery) have failed. This project funded by the V Scholar Program explores new opportunities to enhance cancer immunotherapies.