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ACS Research Highlights

Reprogramming Exhausted Melanoma “Killer” Cells in Mice

Weiguo Cui, PhD
Institution: Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee
Area of Study: Leukemia, Immunology, and Blood Cell Development
Grant Term: 1/1/18 to 12/31/21

close up portrait of Weiguo Cui, PhD from Medical College of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

The Challenge: Immunotherapy uses a patient’s own immune system to fight cancer. Certain types of immunotherapy known as cell therapy or cell transfer therapy, use immune cells called T cells, which are a type of white blood cell. The patient’s T cells are genetically changed in a lab to make them better able to kill cancer cells and returned to the patient’s body. But these superpowered T cells don’t work at full speed forever. They gradually become exhausted, and their cancer-killing abilities weaken.

The Research: Weiguo Cui, PhD, and his team on working on immunotherapy for melanoma. They believe they’ve found a genetic pathway that controls the T cells’ “killing” strength and duration. Using mice that have melanoma, Cui and his team are studying the pathway and hope to use it to design new ways to reprogram the exhausted T cells, thereby allowing them to regain and keep their “super-killing” abilities. 

The Goal and Potential Long-Term Benefits: Cui’s team is hopeful that their work in mice will eventually lead to human studies to help develop new immunotherapy treatments that target different types of cancer cells.