Sarah Gitto, PhD
University of Pennsylania
2022 Pape Family Scientific Scholar Award
Transcriptomic and proteomic analysis of tumor-specific TILs to enhance immunotherapy in ovarian cancer
Immunotherapies aim to enhance the immune system’s capability of eliminating disease within the body. Often, immunotherapy for cancer targets a type of immune cell called T cells to activate their ability to recognize and kill cancer cells. Unfortunately, common immunotherapies only have effects in ~10-33% of ovarian cancer patients. Further research is necessary to understand which patients will respond to immunotherapies and to improve the effectiveness of immunotherapies. T cells can sometimes infiltrate tumors, and this is associated with increased survival. However, most of these T cells do not kill tumor cells like they are supposed to. These non-functional T cells either (1) don’t recognize tumor cells anymore, or (2) they can recognize tumors, but they are “exhausted” and no longer able to perform their tumor-killing functions.
Dr. Gitto will study the molecular properties of these two subtypes of T cells to understand what defines an exhausted T cell. If successful, this study will identify new mechanisms of immune evasion, define parameters to identify good candidate patients for immunotherapies, and advance immunotherapies to combat ovarian cancer.