Chen Sun, Ph.D.

Can we design better receptors for CAR-T cell therapy?

CAR-T cell therapy has revolutionized the way we treat blood cancers. By genetically modifying a patient’s T cells to express molecules called chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) on their surface, scientists can prompt these engineered cells to target and kill cancer cells.

I aim to use a powerful imaging technique called cryo-electron tomography (cryo-ET) to study how CARs and cancer cells interact. Cryo-ET allows us to see the detailed structure of cells without destroying their natural state. By visualizing these interactions, we can gain important insights to design better CARs for cancer treatment.

I hope this approach provides a deeper understanding of how to improve CARs. The goal is to enhance the power of CAR-T cell therapy by making CARs more specific and better at recognizing cancer cells—thereby more effective at activating the immune system. This could lead to better outcomes for patients and expand the range of cancers that can be treated using CAR-T therapy.

SPARKing Impact: My project will explore the interaction between T cells and cancer cells to gain insights into enhancing CAR specificity. This knowledge can guide the design of next-generation CAR-T receptors, improving cancer treatment and expanding applications to enhance patient outcomes.