JAN 29, 2019 9:00 AM PST

Targeting prostate cancer stem cells with T cell immunotherapy

  • PhD Student, Cardiff University
      I am currently doing a PhD in Cardiff University. I'm investigating if T cell immunotherapy could be used to effectively target cancer stem cells in prostate cancer, in the lab of Zsuzsanna Tabi, as part of the Tissue Microenvironment Group (TMEG). I am funded by Tenovus Cancer Care to carry out this work. I received additional funding from the Great Britain Sasakawa foundation in 2017 to complete collaborative work in Sapporo Medical University, Japan.

      I have always been interested in how the immune system works and how it can be directed for therapeutic effect in cancer. I did my undergraduate degree, BSc. Human Health and Disease, in Trinity College Dublin. In my final year there I investigated virulence factors of fusobacterium nucleatum in colon cancer in Dr Henry Windle's lab. While completing this degree I was selected for the Amgen Scholars Program and carried out a project on MYCN signalling in neuroblastoma in the lab of Marie Arsenian Henriksson in the Karolinska Institute, Sweden for the 2013 Program. I then moved to the UK to do a Masters degree at the University of Nottingham. I was awarded a European Masters Scholarship to complete the MSc. Cancer Immunology and Biotechnology Degree. This degree enabled me to deepen and expand my interests in cancer immunology and immunotherapy and set the scene for completing a PhD in this area. I expect to complete my PhD in 2019.

      Outside of labwork I enjoy taking part in science communication and outreach events including hosting lab tours for my funder Tenovus Cancer Care and speaking about my research at public events including at Techniquest Cardiff Bay and the Cardiff Story Museum. I won the Cardiff University Three Minute Thesis heat in 2016 and spoke at Cardiff University's 'Growing the Knowledge Economy' alumni event in 2017. I've also visited schools to facilitate science outreach for the next generation of young scientists with the Cardiff Institute of Tissue Engineering and Repair (CITER).

    DATE:    January 29. 2019
    TIME:    09:00am PST, 12:00pm EST
    In healthy tissue, a reservoir of stem cells gives rise to non-stem cells while simultaneously maintaining their own population. This enables potentially endless growth and recovery from damage. Cancer stem cells (CSC) sustain cancer growth in the same way as normal stem cells do in healthy tissues. They give rise to both CSC and non-CSC tumour cells, the latter which lack stemness but make up the bulk of a tumour. DNA damaging agents (radiation and chemotherapy) can stop tumour growth by killing non-CSC tumour cells but CSC are resistant to these treatments. Surviving CSC could cause cancer relapse and progression, resulting in higher rates of patient mortality. There is growing interest in developing treatments which are specifically effective against CSC.
    We are investigating how CSC could be treated by T cell immunotherapy. T cells can kill specific cancer cells by recognising antigens, protein fragments on the cells’ surface. Another advantage of T cell immunotherapy is the potential for (dormant) T cells to persist in the body which can actively recognise the re-emergence of cancer. Our lab focuses on prostate cancer, the second most common cancer in men worldwide. Early-stage treatment is typically successful but relapse (biochemical) occurs in 15-40% of patients. Additionally, the survival rate of patients that present with or progress to metastatic disease is only 30%. We are characterising prostate CSC and identifying their antigens to target them with T cells. This could prevent disease relapse and progression and improve long term patient outcomes.
    In this talk I will discuss characterisation of CSC in prostate and other cancers. I will describe how we experimentally identified CSC antigens and discuss the utility of antigen datasets in developing immunotherapy treatments. Our current research is focused on isolating and testing the killing efficacy of T cells which recognise the CSC antigens, and how they will lead to future anti-cancer treatments.
    Learning Objectives:
    • Understand the methods used to identify cancer stem cells
    • Learn about the different types of tumour antigen which may be targeted in immunotherapy and how therapeutic antigens are identified

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