About This ProjectOur lab is developing a new cancer treatment which utilizes the patients own immune system to fight and kill their tumor. Early results are very promising but we want to continue improving our system. By using nanoparticles to stimulate immune cells against tumor targets, we can avoid the potential dangers of directly injecting nanoparticles into patients while harnessing their versatility in antigen and adjuvant delivery.
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What is the context of this research?
This vaccine works by isolating immune cells from the patient, stimulating their activation and recognition of parts (antigens) of the relevant tumor, and subsequently reintroducing the stimulated cells into the patient. These cells then recruit immune effector cells that kill tumor cells that they encounter. This allows us to create a strong, specific response against the tumor using only the patient’s own immune system. We are currently developing this approach, using a mouse model that mimics a deadly human cancer, malignant melanoma.
What is the significance of this project?
Melanoma, the most common skin cancer, accounts for roughly 20% of all cancers in the USA, and in 2011 killed over 12,000 people. We are working toward a more specific and effective treatment for melanoma. However, through use of nanoparticles, this model will ultimately be useful in treating a broad range of cancers.
What are the goals of the project?
In the short term, we are looking to continue improving our vaccine through use of nanoparticles as effective vehicles for signals that stimulate the immune cells before re-introducing them into the patient. We have already identified the optimal stimulating signals, and now want to develop nanoparticles in which we incorporate these signals. These will allow us to more effectively stimulate immune cells, as well as accelerate the project toward clinically translational stages.
We want to conduct a pilot experiment utilizing nanoparticles as part of our vaccine delivery system. Currently, the major sources of scientific funding (National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation) have extremely restricted budgets, and < 10% of new meritorious projects receive funding. It is almost impossible to achieve funding without substantial preliminary data. This fundraiser will help fund this initial experiment and provide data for future grant proposals. The pharmaceutical and biotech industries have also cut back sharply upon research funding - no one else is pursuing this vaccine approach.
Meet the Team
Team BioGail A. Bishop received a Ph.D. in Cellular and Molecular Biology from the University of Michigan in 1983. She received the Holden Chair of Cancer Biology at the University of Iowa in 2004. Dr. Bishop is passionate about using her knowledge of basic immune mechanisms to improve important human health problems, of which cancer is of major and growing importance.
Brett Hanson joined the Bishop Lab as an undergraduate researcher, and so impressed Dr. Bishop that when she learned he was interested in continuing lab work before ultimately attending medical school, she immediately offered him a position in the lab. Brett is spearheading this new project, and works closely with Dr. Bishop to plan experiments and discuss results. Brett's ultimate career goal is to become a physician with a particular interest in preventative medicine.
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