Laura M. Rogers, Ph.D., and colleagues in her lab at Mayo Clinic study cancer immunotherapy with an emphasis on understanding genetic determinants of immune cell infiltration into the tumor microenvironment. Dr. Rogers' laboratory applies the Sleeping Beauty transposon system and bioinformatics approaches to identify novel molecular players in immune infiltration, and then works to understand the biology and therapeutic potential of these candidates using in vivo preclinical models and in vitro approaches.
- Regulation of T cell trafficking into the tumor microenvironment. T cell presence in the tumor microenvironment is governed by diverse cellular processes. Dr. Rogers' lab has recently identified a number of T cell genes that influence the intratumoral accumulation of T cells by regulating surface protein expression and distribution (such as chemokine receptors), cellular metabolism, and viability. The lab is currently investigating how perturbation of these cellular processes affect tumor growth and intratumoral trafficking of endogenous and adoptively transferred T cells.
- Genomics and bioinformatics to understand cancer immunotherapy response. A majority of cancer patients exhibit primary or acquired resistance to immunotherapy. A large amount of genomic sequence data is being generated to understand the complex biological mechanisms that contribute to response or resistance to improve therapies and develop biomarkers for response. Dr. Rogers' lab also uses forward genetic screens to complement genomic sequence studies and identify molecules that functionally contribute to varied aspects of an anti-tumor immune response.
Significance to patient care
Many cancer immunotherapies that focus on enhancing cytotoxic T cell activity (such as CAR-T cell therapy and checkpoint blockade) require T cells to be present intratumorally. Cancer patients lacking T cells in their tumors are less likely to respond to T cell-mediated immunotherapies, including CAR-T cell adoptive transfer and immune checkpoint blockade. The lab aims to identify novel strategies to enhance intratumoral T cell accumulation, with the goal of improving immunotherapy success in patients with poorly infiltrated tumors.