John M. and Mary Jo Boler Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
The Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases
Molecular Understanding and Immunotherapy of Metastatic Cancer
Understanding and targeting the tumor microenvironment is at the forefront of current basic and translational cancer research. Targeting tumor microenvironment is closely related to tumor immunology and immunotherapy, one of the most exciting and rapidly evolving areas of cancer research. An intense focus of research in our lab is to investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the cancer ─ tumor microenvironment crosstalk, in particular interactions between cancer cells and the myeloid compartment, in both primary tumors and metastases to bone and other organs. We hypothesize that the efficacy of immune checkpoint blockade drugs (e.g. anti-CTLA4, anti-PD1 antibodies) on refractory metastatic cancer can be potently enhanced when combined with other therapy modalities, including targeted therapy that specifically antagonize immunosuppressive activities yet preserve T cell functions in the tumor microenvironment.
We are equally interested in the most prevalent cancer types that men and women suffer from (prostate cancer and breast cancer), as well as rare cancer types such as penile cancer and sarcoma. As part of the Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases (CRND), our mission is to understand and eliminate cancer as a disease in the near future through bench-to-bedside translational research and partnership with drug discovery powerhouses. To achieve this goal, we use integrated approaches centered at cancer genome mining and validation as well as sophisticated inducible transgenic mouse modeling.