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The Department of Cancer Immunology and Virology performs basic research in cancer immunology and virology and develops new therapeutic strategies based on novel mechanistic insights. Cancer immunology is now one of the most exciting and important areas of investigation in the cancer field. Recent clinical trials conducted at Dana-Farber and other centers have shown that targeting of inhibitory receptors on immune cells can induce durable responses even in cancer patients with advanced disease.
The magnitude and durability of responses to immunotherapies in patients with diverse types of cancer are unprecedented in oncology. Dana-Farber has a long history of excellence in this field, and our immunology investigators have made important contributions to these advances that are now benefiting patients. We think that this is just the beginning of one of the most exciting chapters in the fight against cancer.
Cancer immunology is an important part of the fabric of the Institute, and our mission is to serve as an intellectual center for cancer immunology efforts across the Institute and the Harvard Medical School community. Many investigators from other fields have become interested in pursuing basic/clinical studies in cancer immunology. This trend is likely to continue, given the substantial impact of immunotherapies in the clinic and major scientific opportunities at the interface of cancer biology and immunology.
We closely collaborate with our clinical colleagues, aiming for a seamless transition from basic discovery to clinical translation. This sense of community is fostered at monthly faculty meetings in which all investigators interested in immunology are invited to participate, including basic, translational and clinical investigators. We serve as a source of expertise in key areas of cancer immunology and have active collaborations with many investigators outside of the department.
We emphasize development and implementation of cutting-edge technologies that enhance our ability to study immune responses in animal models and patients. An example is the mass cytometry technology (CyTOF) which enables simultaneous analysis of >30 intracellular and cell surface molecules on immune cells. Antibody binding is detected with high resolution using heavy atom markers instead of fluorescence. We have established a thriving CyTOF consortium at Harvard Medical School for which Dana-Farber serves as the hub, and the instrument is already used by a number of investigators for basic and clinical studies.