Eleven years ago, a decision was made to promote tumor immunology research at our institution by including a tumor immunology program as an integral component of a newly forming NCI accredited Comprehensive Cancer Center. This strategy has yielded significant success and today the number of laboratories at Washington University performing tumor immunology related research has risen significantly. More importantly, the last six years have seen an even more significant rise in translational and/or clinical tumor immunology research. Based on the advances in our understanding of immune system-tumor interactions that have occurred over the last 6 years and the research strengths/interests of our program members, the efforts ofthe Tumor Immunology Program are now focused into four thematic areas: (1) the molecular basis of immune recognition of cancer, (2) mechanisms underiying development of host protective, immune effector functions (3) pro-tumorigenic inflammation and immunosuppression and (4) tumor immunotherapy. The long-range goal ofthe Immunology Program is to encourage development of cutting-edge tumor immunology research and facilitate its direct translation into novel diagnostic or immunotherapeutic protocols. Toward these ends, the following four immediate goals will be pursued: (1) continued development of new experimental tumor models using transgenic and gene-targeted mice that more closely recapitulate clinical aspects of human cancer, (2) definition of the structures/antigens of tumors that are the targets of innate and adaptive immune recognition and exploration of mechanisms to enhance the sensitivity/specificity ofthe recognition process, (3) elucidation ofthe roles of innate and adaptive immune response components in either promoting or suppressing anti-tumor immune responses, and (4) explore new avenues to increase the number of inter-departmental and/or collaborative tumor immunology research projects. The program will achieve these goals by continuing to sponsor a number of interactive scientific forums for its members and their research teams and by employing the resources of the Siteman Cancer Center and its cores to encourage the active and interactive participation of both its basic and clinically oriented members. The Tumor Immunology Research Program currently consists of 28 members from 5 departments and 1 school. It has $2,832,508 in NCI funding and $9,939,175 in other peer reviewed support. This is a highly productive program;publishing 451 publications in the last funding period (2004- 2009) of which 11% were intra-programmatic and 2 1% were inter-programmatic.
Before we can use the power and specificity ofthe immune system against cancer we need to learn more about how immunity controls or promotes cancer and how the presence of a tumor affects the function of the immune system. We also need to determine what types of immunotherapy are best suited for particular types of cancer. This program will use the profound immunological and clinical expertise of our members to translate basic discoveries in tumor immunology to more effective cancer diagnostics and/or therapies.
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