Basic Immunological Mechanisms

All therapeutic advances in cancer immunology are based on our growing understanding of fundamental immunological mechanisms. We approach immunology as a complex system in which many cell populations activate and regulate each other. We believe that the complexity of the immune system provides many points of intervention for cancer immunotherapy. It is well established in human cancers that the presence of particular immune cell populations – such as activated cytotoxic T cells – strongly correlates with survival.

Several labs in the department study the function of T cells at a cellular, molecular, and structural level and are identifying novel targets for enhancing T cell-mediated responses in cancer (Cantor, Wucherpfennig, Novina).

  • The Cantor Lab focuses on the basic mechanisms by which the activity of effector cells is inhibited, with a particular interest in a novel population of CD8 regulatory T cells.
  • The Wucherpfennig Lab studies the basic mechanisms that control the activity of cytotoxic T cells using systematic in vivo discovery approaches based on pooled shRNA screening technologies.
  • Immune cells are highly mobile, and the Hemler Lab studies the function of integrin and associated tetraspanin molecules in immune cell and tumor cell migration.