As instructor of oncology and pediatrics, Llosa’s research focus is the immunotherapy of sarcomas.
My research focuses on understanding how the immune system interacts with cancer cells from sarcoma tumors. Sarcoma is a type of cancer that can occur in various locations in the body. Sarcoma is the general term for a broad group of cancers that includes tumors that form in the bones and in the soft (also called connective) tissues. Sarcomas affect people of all ages and some, such as Rhabdomyosarcoma, Neuroblastoma, Ewings sarcoma and Osteosarcoma, are more common in children and young adults. Treatments for sarcoma vary depending on tumor type, location and other factors. I concentrate in the immunotherapy of sarcomas. Immunotherapy (also called biologic therapy or biotherapy) is a type of cancer treatment designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve, target, or restore immune system function. Immunotherapy works by stopping or slowing the growth of cancer cells, stopping cancer from spreading to other parts of the body, or helping the immune system increase its effectiveness at eliminating cancer cells. There are several types of immunotherapy, including monoclonal antibodies, non-specific immunotherapies, and cancer vaccines. My specific area of interest is the use of drugs that target immune system checkpoints. The immune system has checkpoints to keep itself from attacking other normal cells in the body. Cancer cells sometimes take advantage of these checkpoints to avoid being attacked by the immune system. CTLA-4 and PD-1/PD-L1 are checkpoint molecules found on immune system cells (T cells) that can be blocked with drugs leading to a general raise in the immune system of the patients which helps it attack cancer cells. These types of drugs are currently being given to patients with melanoma (skin cancer), lung cancer and kidney cancer with great success and they have been found to shrink advanced tumors in many people. The best part of the treatment is that many of these tumor responses have been long-lasting so far, and the side effects are generally less serious than when using chemotherapy. Larger clinical trials are now studying both drugs, both alone and/or in combination with other treatments. My task is and will continue to be using the same type of approach for attacking sarcomas and hopefully obtained the very promising results and long lasting responses observed with the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors in other types of cancer.