While most studies in cancer immunology have focused on processes taking place within the tumor itself (i.e., the tumor microenvironment), we now understand that immune responses outside the tumor are critical for effective anti-tumor immunity. We found that cancer development changes the set point of the immune system broadly outside of the tumor, impacting both the types of immune cells that are present in different sites as well as the function of the immune system.
Ongoing studies in the lab aim to understand how cancer immunotherapies work in the context of different immune macroenvironments. We are interested in how and where immunotherapies activate immune cells and how these responses are coordinated across anatomic locations. We are also studying ways to improve T cell priming in the context of cancer, a new barrier that we recently discovered. Our studies leverage various mouse models of cancer and strong collaborations with the UCSF Head and Neck Oncology and Breast Oncology Programs, enabling us to study these processes in patients with cancer.