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Tumor Immunology

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

Fifteen years ago, a strategic decision was made to promote basic science research in tumor immunology and establish an infrastructure to facilitate clinical translation of cancer immunotherapies at Siteman Cancer Center (SCC) through the creation of a Tumor Immunology Program (TIP) as an integral component of a newly-forming NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. This strategic decision has proved to be prescient, and today the number of laboratories at SCC performing tumor immunology-related research has increased significantly. In the last five years there has been an increase in the number of laboratories performing translational tumor immunology research and a number of investigator-initiated cancer clinical trials are ongoing. This increase in translational research has been achieved through the creation of an environment where interactions between basic scientists and physician scientists occur easily and often and where state-of-the-art resources are available to facilitate translation of basic science research findings into novel therapeutic opportunities. As a result of the environment that was established by the SCC, the highly interactive nature of the basic immunology research community now extends to the work being performed in the areas of tumor immunology and cancer immunotherapy. Efforts of Tumor Immunology Program members are currently focused into four central themes: (1) the dynamic interplay between the immune system and cancer, (2) the molecular basis of immune recognition of cancer, (3) the impact of inflammation and immunosuppression on cancer development and (4) cancer immunotherapy.

The long-range goal of the Tumor Immunology Program is to encourage the development of cutting-edge basic science research in tumor immunology and facilitate the direct translation of basic science insights into novel therapeutic opportunities. Toward these ends, the following four immediate goals will be pursued:

  • Develop new experimental mouse models that precisely recapitulate the dynamic interplay between the human immune system and developing tumors in cancer patients
  • Identify tumor-specific molecules that serve as targets of innate and adaptive immune responses and explore mechanisms to enhance the recognition of these molecules as a platform for novel immunotherapies
  • Define the role of inflammation and/or regulatory elements of the innate and adaptive immune system in either promoting or suppressing antitumor immune responses
  • Translate basic immunologic research into clinically relevant tests and interventions

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 shared resources to encourage the active and interactive participation of both its basic and clinically oriented members. The Tumor Immunology Research Program currently consists of 34 members from five departments in the School of Medicine.