T cells play a major role in controlling the progression of human cancer
In one research area, the Powell lab studies rare tumor-reactive T cells in patient-derived tumors, and is applying this new-found knowledge as a “roadmap” for the rational design of cancer immunotherapy trials using checkpoint inhibitors. In another, the Powell lab is developing innovative, advanced gene-engineering approaches to generate tumor-reactive T cells outside of the body for adoptive transfer therapy of cancer.
The missions of the Powell laboratory include the following:
- Understand the immunobiology of human cancer. How can we strengthen the patient’s own immune cells to cure cancer?
- Develop novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) and T cell receptor (TCR) platforms that deliver effective and safe T cell therapy for patients.
- To develop improved in vivo model systems to test promising immunotherapy modalities, including therapies for companion pets.
- Translate basic science into clinical trials for ovarian cancer.
Active research projects in the Powell laboratory include:
- Understanding how the host immune system recognizes and engages cancer cells.
- Exploration of immunomodulation strategies that potentiate natural host antitumor T cell responses.
- Pioneering universal immune receptors that allow T cells to "sense" cancer cells and "adapt" to recognize a variety of tumor associated antigens (see figure above).
- Development of new CARs and TCRs that confer T cells with tumor antigen-specificity.
- Testing of new antibody combinations that activate tumor-reactive T cells and simultaneously blocking checkpoint molecules that dampen host antitumor immunity.
- Pharmacological sensitization of tumor cells to immune attack.
- Development of new model systems to screen immunomodulatory agents in vitro and in vivo.