Immunologic Checkpoint Blockade Dream Team - Stand Up To Cancer

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SU2C–Cancer Research Institute Cancer Immunology Dream Team: Immunologic Checkpoint Blockade and Adoptive Cell Transfer in Cancer Therapy

Grant Term: March 2013–February 2018

The goal of this SU2C–Cancer Research Institute (CRI) Cancer Immunology Dream Team is to induce antitumor responses in immune cells called T cells. The team has taken two approaches to this: blocking the mechanisms that inhibit T cell activity (thereby allowing the T cells to expand, infiltrate, and kill cancer cells) and generating large quantities of T cells in the laboratory, enhancing their cancer-killing abilities, and then transferring them back to patients.


Cancer immunotherapy is based on getting a patient’s own immune system to attack the cancer. This SU2C–CRI Cancer Immunology Dream Team has worked on two cancer immunotherapy approaches.

In one approach, the team uses drugs called checkpoint inhibitors to foil the “tricks” that cancers rely on to escape natural immune cell attack. In the other approach, known as adoptive cell transfer (ACT), the team takes patient’s own immune cells to the lab, makes these cells into more efficient cancer killing machines, and then returns the cells to the patient.

Work by members of this Dream Team contributed to the 2017 FDA approval of two new checkpoint inhibitors, pembrolizumab and nivolumab. The team analyzed tumor samples to determine how checkpoint inhibitors work and to identify biomarkers―molecules that can be measured in patients’ blood, tumor samples, or other biological specimens to predict which patients will respond to immune therapy.

To make better T cells for ACT, the team studies the antigens―the substances that trigger an immune response―expressed by tumor cells to find out how best to improve the efficiency of the T cell attack.


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