The overall goal of our research is to understand and exploit the immunogenic properties of tumor irradiation so this treatment modality can be combined with immunotherapy to improve cancer patient outcomes. The underlying hypothesis is that focused radiation induces immunogenic cell death that, if properly channeled, can induce effective anti-tumor immunity. This hypothesis is supported by multiple studies published by our team and others. A clinical example of this is a phenomenon known as the abscopal effect triggered by radiation where distant, non-irradiated tumors have responded to local radiation therapy. Yet, abscopal effects are rarely observed.
The focus of our research is to better understand the immunogenic effects of tumor irradiation and thereby strategically combine this modality with cancer immunotherapy to routinely induce abscopal responses in the clinic. We plan to reach this goal via three simultaneous, ongoing, and interrelated approaches: