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The immune system is the body’s first line of defense against most diseases and infectious invaders. Understanding how the immune system works—or does not work—against cancer is a primary focus of the Cancer Immunology Program. Our experts are deciphering the basic biology of immune responses with the goal of developing new immune therapy approaches and improving existing ones. Significant focus is on combined approaches that build upon discoveries in cancer genetics (mutations to DNA), epigenetics (chemical alterations to the environment of DNA) and immunology. Recent discoveries use new findings about how the immune system functions to create synergy and improve the effectiveness of surgery, cancer vaccines, drug therapies and radiation therapy. Precision, or personalized, medicine is used to guide the best immune approaches to the right patients, and this exciting work is leading to long lasting responses in many cancers. Ultimately, our researchers expect to decipher why immune therapies work for some patients and not others, enlisting the body’s own defenses against virtually every kind of cancer.
This work is being accelerated through the Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Research of immune checkpoint blockades that shield cancer from the immune system, biomarkers that guide the selection and monitor the effectiveness of immune therapies, innovative new cancer vaccines that recruit cancer-killing T cells, and personalized, immune-boosting cell therapies are among the exciting discoveries that are spanning cancer types and show promise for unprecedented success, even in advanced and resistant cancers.