Decades of research suggest that a person’s own immune system can be activated to attack cancer cells. Paradoxically, inflammation mediated by the immune system can create a micro-environment that promotes cancer development. Tumor immunology research seeks to understand and manipulate this complex interplay to create new cancer prevention and treatment approaches. The research goals of this program are thus two-fold: (1) to activate host immunity against cancer cells, and (2) to suppress inflammation that can lead to cancer.

Ongoing tumor immunology projects include:

  • The first demonstration that depletion of immune cells called T-regulatory cells causes tumor regression in cancer patients (currently in a multi-center phase II clinical trial resulting from research and a phase I/II trial conducted at the JGBCC)
  • Discovery that interactions between the immune system and gut microorganisms can contribute to colon cancer progression
  • Using molecules called beta-glucans in combination with cancer-specific antibodies to boost the anti-cancer efficacy of either agent alone
  • First use of edible, plant-derived microparticles called exosomes to modulate inflammation in cancer patients
  • Testing of an oral vaccine against colon cancer
  • Testing of an embryonic stem cell vaccine to universally prevent human cancers

Researchers focused on Tumor Immunology include: