Research Project: Revealing How Immune Cells Specialize in Response to Lung Cancer Cells
Lung cancer is the primary cause of cancer death in the U.S. and current chemotherapies fail in the majority of patients. Recent advances in immunotherapies show great promise in lung cancers. Subsets of immune T cells show a strong correlation to the cancer prognosis and survival rates of certain cancer patients. But how these cells work in lung cancer is still unknown. We will provide a molecular imaging technology to simultaneously visualize multiple molecular subtypes to decipher how immune cells specialize in response to cancer cells in a lung cancer modal on a dish. Modeling chemical distributions of immune cells near cancer cells will reveal the immune capacity for the elimination of cancer cells. This research will shed light on the future immunotherapeutic drug designs to achieve higher response rates to immunotherapies for lung cancer patients.
We are currently working towards building a co-culture system that combines lung cancer cell lines with immune cells called CD8+ T-cells. We are focusing on the chemical analysis of stem-like T cells using novel lung organoids (three-dimensional tissue cultures grown from single cells) and lung tumors. So far, we have established the lung organoid model from mouse and human cells independently. We further refined our molecular imaging technology to study the workings of immune cells from biopsies of lung cancer patients. We have found distinct levels of metabolic activity in stem-like T cells when co-cultured with cancer cells and “metabolic competition” between CD8+ T cells and cancer cells in lung tissues. Next, in Year two , we will start challenging our organoids with immunotherapy drugs and linking the findings with tissue maps in lung cancers.