Immune cell mechanisms in cancer and infection

Rationale

Cells of the immune system are critical to defend the body against cancer as well as infection by viruses, bacteria, and parasites.

In most circumstances, these immune cell types are carefully regulated ensuring that appropriate responses are made during infection and that following clearance of pathogens, the immune response returns to a resting state. However, in some cases, inappropriate immune activation can result in autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis. On the other hand, immune responses are often defective in cancer allowing tumour growth and spread. Therefore, the overall objective of the project is to investigate the molecular mechanisms that regulate the immune response in these different settings.

Plan of work and impact of our studies

Our studies are designed to identify molecular targets that are essential for normal immunity and to determine the impact of interfering with these pathways on immune responses to cancer and infection. To enable this, we use mouse models in which we can manipulate cellular function through genetic modifications. By identifying pathways and mechanisms involved in immune cell activation, this information may provide insight into new therapeutic approaches, eg novel therapies to improve immune responses to cancer. 

Therefore, we have two main aims:

1) to determine the role of specific molecules in immune responses

2) to identify potential therapeutic targets that could be used to enhance (in the case of cancer) or decrease (in the case of autoimmunity) immune responses. 

Animal welfare

Mice will be monitored regularly and routinely for signs of ill health or distress throughout all aspects of the project. Where appropriate, anaesthetics and pain-killing drugs will be used whilst advice from local veterinary surgeons will be sought in any situation where animals are showing unexpected signs of ill health or suffering. In all cases, experimental protocols have pre-determined 'endpoints' that when reached, animals will be removed from the study.

Non-technical summary 

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