Parker Bridge Fellows Program; Funded in partnership between Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and the V Foundation
Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the US. In order to tackle cancers, a new kind of therapy has emerged, termed immunotherapy, which aims to boost the immune system’s ability to fight the cancer. However, a major fraction of patients do not respond to immunotherapies currently. If we can figure out what other roadblocks to the immune system exist in these patients, we could expand the benefits to survival and quality of life to more people.
The immune system is a complicated team, with different cell types doing different roles. In order to work together these cells must talk to each through cell signaling and have to be in the right formations to carry out a successful play against the tumor. We want to discover how this teamwork can break down and design therapies to patch those issues.
The tumor is made up of more than just immune cells of course, and our project will focus on two types of cells that talk to the immune system. One cell type is the fibroblast which makes the building materials that hold our tissues together. Another cell type is the endothelial cell which forms blood vessels which serve as the roads and highways that carry cells, nutrients, and drugs into the tumor. If we can understand how these cells break immune cell teamwork, we can reveal new weak spots to target, making immunotherapies even stronger.