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The Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy Program (TII) seeks to understand the interaction between the immune system and malignancies, and translate this knowledge into the development of novel diagnostic, preventive, and treatment regimens. The Program, which takes advantage of close interactions between laboratory and clinical scientists, relies on the validation in animal model systems of results derived from in vitro investigations in the laboratory. The information derived from in vitro and in vivo studies is then utilized to develop novel strategies to address clinical questions. In turn, the questions generated from investigations in the clinical setting are brought back to the laboratory and to animal model systems. This bi-directional exchange of information between laboratory investigators and clinical investigators provides the opportunity to apply basic science to investigate molecular mechanisms underlying clinically relevant questions.
The Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy Program is structured into three distinct but interrelated themes:
1) Mechanisms of immunological tumor rejection
2) Microenvironment and host-tumor interactions
Theme 1: “Mechanisms of immunological tumor rejection” aims to characterize the molecular mechanisms for processing and presentation of antigens, and the structural basis of defects in histocompatibility antigens expression by malignant cells. Furthermore, this theme investigates the impact of changes in the expression and function of histocompatibility antigens on interactions between malignant cells and the host’s immune system as well as on the outcome of immunotherapy of malignant diseases.
It has become clear that tumor cell-autonomous changes, such as loss of histocompatibility antigens, represents only some of the mechanisms by which tumors escape control by endogenous or therapeutically elicited immune responses.
Theme 2: “Microenvironment and host-tumor interactions” seeks to define and understand the role of the interactions between the tumor cells and the surrounding microenvironment on tumor cell survival as well as modulating the host anti-tumor immune responses. This research also broadly includes the inflammatory milieu within which carcinogenesis occurs, as well as how the immune system itself can be a supportive component of the tumor microenvironment.
Theme 3: “Immunotherapy” utilizes the information derived from the other two themes in order to develop and characterize molecular and immunologic strategies for manipulating the innate and adaptive immune responses to malignancy. It is expected that the developed strategies will improve our ability to select, monitor and treat patients with immunotherapy.
These themes are dynamic and interactive, continually evolving to translate programmatic data for clinical application.