Researchers at La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) are studying ways to harness the immune system to halt lung cancer growth.
LJI Professor Pandurangan Vijayanand, M.D., Ph.D., is investigating how immunotherapies could take aim at lung cancer. In a 2017 Nature study, his lab showed that certain anti-tumor cells called cytotoxic T lymphocytes (CTLs) have molecular features associated with a robust anti-tumor immune response. This study defined the “molecular fingerprint” of tumor-infiltrating CTLs and identified potentially new targets for immunotherapy.
While at LJI, Professor Catherine Hedrick, Ph.D., showed that a type of white blood cells, called “patrolling monocytes,” play an anti-cancer role in the lung. In a 2015 Science study, the Hedrick Lab reported that these monocytes can directly block lung metastasis by detecting and destroying tumor cells before the tumor cells can invade new tissues. The next step in this research is to develop immunotherapies that might increase the number or activity of patrolling monocytes in lung cancer patients.