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.