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Tumor Immunology

Program Co-Leaders: Robert Schreiber, PhD, and William Gillanders, MD

Eleven years ago, a decision was made to promote tumor immunology research at Washington University by including a tumor immunology program as an integral component of a newly forming NCI-accredited Comprehensive Cancer Center. This strategy has yielded significant success, and today the number of laboratories performing tumor immunology-related research has risen significantly. More importantly, the last six years have seen an even more significant rise in translational and/or clinical tumor immunology research. Based on the advances in our understanding of immune system-tumor interactions that have occurred over the last six years and the research strengths/interests of our program members, the efforts of the Tumor Immunology Program are now focused into four thematic areas: (1) the molecular basis of immune recognition of cancer; (2) mechanisms underlying development of host-protective, immune-effector functions; (3) pro-tumorigenic inflammation and immunosuppression; and (4) tumor immunotherapy.

The long-range goal of the Tumor Immunology Program is to encourage the development of cutting-edge tumor immunology research and facilitate its direct translation into novel diagnostic or immunotherapeutic protocols. Toward these ends, the following four immediate goals will be pursued:

  • Continued development of new experimental tumor models using transgenic and gene-targeted mice that more closely recapitulate clinical aspects of human cancer
  • Definition of the structures/antigens of tumors that are the targets of innate and adaptive immune recognition and exploration of mechanisms to enhance the sensitivity/specificity of the recognition process
  • Elucidation of the roles of innate and adaptive immune response components in either promoting or suppressing anti-tumor immune responses
  • Exploration of new avenues to increase the number of inter-departmental and/or collaborative tumor immunology research projects.

The program will achieve these goals by continuing to sponsor a number of interactive scientific forums for its members and their research teams and by employing the resources of the Siteman Cancer Center and its cores to encourage the active and interactive participation of both its basic and clinically oriented members. The Tumor Immunology Research Program currently consists of 28 members from five departments in the School of Medicine.