Research

The David F. and Margaret T. Grohne 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

Our research findings about the relationship between cancer and the immune system include:

  • Identifying the mechanisms involved in post-transcriptional regulation of inflammatory macrophage
  • Revealing how mRNA is 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

Our research accomplishments about antibody-based therapies for cancer 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 the 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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of pembrolizumab for the treatment of several human cancers
  • 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
  • Demonstrating that Abraxane is a versatile antibody-targeted nanoparticle platform (AB160) for cancer therapy

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

Our research findings about cancer vaccines include:

  • By using three different mouse models of diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma, a type of fatal tumor of the brainstem 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
  • Demonstrating that once administered systemically, the oncolytic virus Reolysin associates with both peripheral blood mononuclear and polymorphonuclear cells to avoid neutralization by antibody

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

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

  • Participating in the pivotal trial that led to FDA approval of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T cell therapy for B-cell non-Hodgkin's lymphoma
  • Participating in a growing number of CAR-T cell clinical trials for hematologic malignancies

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