The mission of the Cancer Immunlogy (CI) Research Program is to improve understanding of the host response to cancer and to discover and test novel approaches to harness that response to improve patient outcomes. Drs. Dhodapkar and Chen lead the CI program and are experienced investigators with a >15-year history of sustained NCI funding and multiple contributions in cancer immunology.
Immune checkpoint blockade for cancer treatment has emerged as one of the most exciting and promising new approaches to treat cancer in decades. CI has played a leading role in bringing this revolutionary approach into the clinic with several seminal studies that introduced checkpoint blockade targeting the PD1/PD-L1 pathway in the therapy of melanoma, lung, gastric, head/neck, and bladder cancer. The program engages basic immunologists and cancer biologists, provides the infrastructure required for high-quality monitoring of immune responses in cancer patients, and facilitates the design and conduct of clinical studies of immune and cell-based therapies in collaboration with clinical colleagues in other YCC programs and at other institutions.
The goals of the Cancer Immunology Program are to:
1. Identify the mechanisms underlying the capacity of the immune system to inhibit tumor growth, as well as mechanisms that drive tumor immune resistance.
2. Discover and test new approaches for promoting anti-tumor immunity.
3. Study the mechanistic links between inflammation and cancer.
4. Undertake targeted therapeutic trials that utilize novel endpoint assessment and build on the fundamental discoveries of 1-3.