Immuno-Oncology Program

Cancer immunotherapy is designed to activate a person’s own immune system to attack cancer cells and has achieved great success in many cancer types.  However, only a fraction of patients benefit from this kind of therapy.  The research conducted in the Immuno-Oncology (IO) program seeks to understand and manipulate this complex interplay between immune cells and tumor/stromal cells and to develop novel cancer prevention and treatment approaches.  The overall goals of the IO program are two-fold: (1) developing novel approaches to activate or reinvigorate innate and adaptive immunity against cancer cells; and (2) understanding immune evasion mechanisms thus developing novel approaches to overcome such evasion.

Ongoing tumor immunology projects include:

  • Developing novel immunotherapies such as tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) and CAR T-cell therapy, which are part of our clinical trials program at the Brown Cancer Center
  • Leading role in immunocheckpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy clinical trials in metastatic melanoma and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients and understanding intrinsic and acquired ICI treatment resistance
  • Using natural compounds called beta-glucans to induce trained immunity, an innate form of memory, in combination with cancer-specific antibodies, or ICI, to boost the anti-cancer efficacy of either agent alone
  • Dissecting tumor immune microenvironment using multi-omics approaches to understand spatial and temporal interactions among immune cells, tumor cells, and stromal cells 
  • Use of edible, plant-derived microparticles called exosomes to modulate inflammation in cancer patients
  • Understanding interactions between the immune system and microbiome in cancer progression
  • Testing of an embryonic stem cell vaccine to universally prevent human cancers

Researchers focused on Tumor Immunology include: