Research

The Cancer Immunology and Immunotherapy Program collaborates with numerous Mayo Clinic faculty researchers on four defined research focus areas:

  • Developing new knowledge about how the immune system functions and interacts with cancer cells
  • Developing new antibody-based therapies to treat cancer
  • Identifying and developing vaccines to prevent cancer recurrence and improve the efficacy of immune modulation with checkpoint inhibitors
  • Developing strategies to redirect nontumor antigen-specific T cells to attack cancer

Developing new knowledge about how the immune system functions and interacts with cancer cells

Recent research findings about the immune system and cancer include:

  • Identifying the mechanisms involved in post-transcriptional regulation of inflammatory macrophage
  • Revealing how mRNA are stabilized through a pathway mediated by PREX1-RAC1 interactions in malignant T cells
  • Identifying the mechanisms involved in mediating cytoskeletal regulation of the movement of cytoplasmic organelles and membranes in NK cells
  • Clarifying the role of IL33 in the dysregulation of T regulatory cells

Developing new antibody-based therapies to treat cancer

Recent research accomplishments about antibody-based therapies include:

  • Identifying new mechanisms of function of PD-L1/PD-1 immune cells and membrane and soluble PD-L1 as biomarkers for prediction of disease progression
  • Using a newly developed RNA sequencing platform to assess immune response phenotypes in patients with melanoma or ovarian cancer
  • Developing multiparametric flow cytometry to characterize the immune status of patients and correlate findings with disease and disease progression
  • Demonstrating that an adaptive immune response is initiated in patients with both advanced and relapsed breast cancer after initiation of combination therapy with chemotherapy and trastuzumab
  • Conducting clinical trials using the anti-PD-1 drug pembrolizumab to treat human melanoma, laying the foundation for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of pembrolizumab for the treatment of several human cancers. Learn more about immunotherapy for melanoma.
  • Demonstrating that the anti-PD-1 drug nivolumab had substantial therapeutic activity and an acceptable safety profile in patients with previously heavily treated relapsed or refractory Hodgkin's lymphoma. Learn more about immune therapy for lymphoma.
  • Demonstrating that Abraxane is a versatile antibody targeted nanoparticle platform (AB160) for cancer therapy

Identifying and developing vaccines to prevent cancer recurrence and improve the efficacy of immune modulation with checkpoint inhibitors

Recent research findings about cancer vaccines include:

  • By using three different mouse models of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a type of fatal tumor of the brain stem in children, demonstrating that T-cell therapies can provide significant survival benefit without catastrophic inflammatory toxicity.
  • Discovering that cDNA expressing truncated self-proteins are more immunogenic than are their full-length cDNA counterparts, a finding being adapted to vaccine development.
  • Introducing enzyme complexes capable of inducing a spectrum of variant antigens that when sampled by the immune repertoire can generate measurable self-reactive T cells.
  • Developing T cell-based vaccines targeting a wide variety of tumor antigens, including HER2, CEA, FRa and IGFBP. Learn more about a cancer vaccine for ductal carcinoma in situ and watch a video of Mayo Clinic researcher Keith L. Knutson, Ph.D., discussing his work on the vaccine.
  • Demonstrating that once administered systemically, the oncolytic virus Reolysin associates with both peripheral blood mononuclear and polymorphonuclear cells to avoid neutralization by antibody.

Developing strategies to redirect nontumor antigen-specific T cells to attack cancer

Recent research accomplishments related to CAR-T cell therapy include: