Theresa Guo, MD

Immunotherapy is a new method of cancer treatment that boosts the immune system to help kill cancer cells. Patients with head and neck cancer that has returned or spread to other parts of the body have few treatment options, and immunotherapy has been a breakthrough to improved survival. However, this therapy works in less than 20% of patients. We believe that this immune system treatment does not work in some patients because their immune system is desensitized to the cancer, and the cancer is able to hide from the immune system. In this study we propose that splicing, which are gene rearrangements, can (1) help identify which patients will benefit from this treatment, and (2) find new ways to make this treatment effective for more patients. First, we will look at splicing as a marker to help predict which patients will respond to immunotherapy. Next, we will use a mouse model of oral cancer to understand how splicing is related to a suppressed immune system to understand why some patients do not respond to treatment. Lastly, we will combine immunotherapy with new drugs that can increase splicing rearrangements to see if this combination will improve response to treatment. Ultimately, we believe that study of these gene rearrangements will lead to new treatments that could help cure more patients with head and neck cancer.

Location: Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health - California
Proposal: Defining the relationship between aberrant splicing burden and anti-tumoral immunity in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma
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