Cancer Inflammation and Immunity

The extent to which the immune system acts as a natural barrier to cancer has been a subject of intense debate. This notion has recently gained great support from the clinical success of therapies aimed at exploiting cells from the immune system. Yet, whether and how tumours simultaneously trigger and evade the immune system are longstanding questions in cancer biology. The Cancer Inflammation and Immunity group investigates the mechanisms that control natural and therapy-induced tumour immunity with a particular emphasis on uncovering the cellular and molecular mediators that regulate the balance between tumour-protective versus tumour-promoting inflammation.

Inflammatory cells present at the tumour site are known to promote several key aspects of carcinogenesis. Concurrently, effective anti-tumour immunity depends on inflammatory mediators that contribute to the activation of innate immune cells such as dendritic cells. Combining the use of genetically engineered cancer models with the analysis of samples from cancer patients, our group aims at identifying the underlying mechanisms that allow evasion of immune control and enable progressive tumour growth. Within this framework, the main objective of the group is to elucidate which signals trigger innate immune cell activation initiating tumour immunity, and to  distinguish mediators favouring tumour elimination from those that support cancer progression. This distinction should allow us to stratify subgroups of cancer patients with an immune promoting tumour environment likely to benefit from existing immunotherapy from those with inhibitory pathways resulting in local immune suppression. Ultimately, with this knowledge, we hope to develop novel targeted interventions to disrupt immune suppression, promote tumour immunity and enhance the efficacy of cancer therapy.