Harnessing the Immune System to Fight Cancer
Multiple Myeloma (MM) is the second most common hematologic malignancy causing 10,000+ deaths per year in the US alone. Nowadays, significant responses can be induced in the vast majority of myeloma patients during the initial lines of therapy. However, MM is still considered incurable and most patients will eventually suffer a fatal relapse. This is due to the persistence of chemotherapy-resistant precursor cells in the bone marrow even after destruction of the bulk of tumor cells and, accordingly, the disease will become more and more refractory to chemotherapy after each additional line of treatment. Therefore, we propose to target MM from different biological angles by a variety of modalities, including immunotherapeutic approaches, to destroy the tumor bulk as well as MM-promoting precursors and eventually achieve cures.
The Atanackovic lab focuses on harnessing the human immune system for the fight against cancer, in particular hematologic malignancies such as MM. Our group believes that due to their accessibility, antigenic profile and unique biology these types of cancer are ideal targets for cellular and humoral immunotherapies. Patients do occasionally develop spontaneous immune responses against their own tumors. Such primary responses, however, are often unable to control tumor growth, most likely due to low effector cell numbers and their functional inhibition. Immune tolerance towards target proteins, which are often recognized as “self” and not “foreign”, and an immunosuppressive tumor environment are likely to play a central role in these phenomena. We are working on finding novel pathways to a multimodal and clinically effective immunotherapy for Multiple Myeloma.