Aaron N. Hata, M.D., Ph.D.

Aaron N. Hata, M.D., Ph.D.

Institution: Massachusetts General Hospital

Project: Exploiting potent anti-viral immunity against lung cancer through antigenic reprograming

Grant(s): Innovation Award

While immunotherapies that stimulate the immune system to attack tumors work well in some lung cancer patients, many do not benefit. Lung cancers that harbor low numbers of gene mutations   are difficult for the immune system to recognize, and these patients have very few T cells that are capable of attacking the cancer. In contrast, most patients have large numbers of T cells that are capable of recognizing viruses such as CMV or EBV that are commonly encountered in the context of normal life. We will develop a novel therapy that is capable of reprogramming tumor cells to look like they are infected by virus so that viral-specific T cells will attack them. These molecules, called Antibody Epitope Peptide Conjugates (APEC), can be tailored for the specific viral immunity and tumor characteristics of each patient. This has the potential to open up broad new therapeutic opportunities for patients with lung cancer that do not respond to current immunological therapies.

Supported by the Mary Fuller Russell Fund

Update:

We have made significant progress toward our goal of developing APECs that can reprogram tumor immunity in lung cancer patients. We have now designed APECs to cover a range of epitopes from multiple common viruses, allowing us to potentially target the majority of non-small cell lung cancer patients. Through functional screening of tumor-associated protease activity, we have achieved improved tumor selectivity and APEC activity. Our efforts will set the stage for the second year during which we will test optimized candidate APECs in patient-derived lung cancer models.

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