UNDERSTANDING T CELL IMMUNITY
Understanding how the immune system works is essential in designing new ways to treat and cure disease. Many different cell types are involved in the immune response. T cells are a population of white blood cells that protect our bodies against infection. These cells also have the potential to protect our bodies against tumour cell growth. However, T cells can cause diseases, such as diabetes or arthritis, by attacking our own healthy tissues.
There are numerous molecules that control the ability of T cells to attack germs, tumour cells and normal tissues. Much of the work by our lab has focused on understanding the processes that initiate and direct an immune response to tumours or other tissues of the body.
Identifying key molecules and pathways that control the immune response will provide new targets and ways to direct innovative therapies for cancer. The goal of the lab is to identify different ways to improve the size and length of time of an immune response, so that new approaches can be incorporated in treatments that trigger an immune response to cancer.
The team's efforts will also establish the first team to provide T cell immune therapy for cancer patients. This will provide an important foundation for future efforts to combat cancer.
WHAT IS IMMUNOTHERAPY?
The lab is focused on understanding the mechanisms that determine whether T cells are activated or tolerized in vivo. We use a variety of transgenic and gene knock out mouse models to evaluate the molecular pathways that govern T cell fate. This includes examining novel ways that dendritic cells are programmed to influence T cell function in vivo. As an overarching theme, we examine ways to promote T cell responses to tissues, with a goal to understand and control autoimmune and anti-tumor immune responses.
With the support of the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, we have spent the majority of the time since 2005, building the Tumor Immunotherapy Program. We now have a comprehensive program that includes TIL therapy, TCR transduction therapy, DC vaccines, and immune checkpoint blockade. In parallel we have developed an Immune Profiling platform with state of the art ability to immunophenotype patients with different tissues, including blood and biopsies.