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Cancer Immunology

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Our experts believe that if we could successfully harness the power of the immune system, no cancer could survive. As a result, Cancer Immunology Program investigators are focused on using the body’s own natural defenses against cancer by understanding the basic biology of the immune response to cancer. Cancer Immunology research is focused on new therapies that target immune cells in and around cancers.  Cancer Immunology Program research resulted in the first-in-history genetically engineered cancer cell vaccines, which seeded more recent advances, including biomarker diagnostics—PD-L1 expression and mismatch repair deficiency—that guide immune checkpoint blocker drug use.  The Cancer Immunology Program also pioneered immunotherapy with anti-PD1 checkpoint blockade drugs before surgery, which is expected to potentially become standard of care in a number of cancers, including lung cancer and Merkel Cell cancer. Other drugs that target and augment the immune response to cancer are in development. To fuel the generation of other new cancer immunotherapies, researchers continue to unravel basic mechanisms of immune regulation and cancer immunity with collaborations across the Kimmel Cancer Center and Johns Hopkins University based in our Bloomberg~Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. Experts are defining molecules and pathways that regulate immune system responses to cancer;  developing novel approaches and combinations that overcome immunotherapy resistance; and  identifying predictive biomarkers to guide individualized, precision immunotherapy. Building on these basic, translational and clinical trials successes, Cancer Immunology Program investigators are zeroing in on the untapped capacity of the immune system's power to provide further durable cancer remission and even cure.

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