50 Years ESDR Anniversary Lecture 4
Title: A commotion in the skin: Developing melanoma immune therapies
Date: Friday 24 September 2021, 10.30 – 10.50
The Röcken laboratory explores the capacity of adaptive immunity to prevent or treat inflammatory, infectious or cancer diseases. Focussing on T cell cytokines, they analyze the possibilities to modulate and to generate T cells for immune therapies.
Thus, the lab was the first to show that either interferon producing TH1 cells or interleukin-4 producing TH2 cells always differentiate from undetermined precursors. Subsequently, the lab characterized major signals allowing the antigen-specific induction of either TH1 or TH2 cells in vivo, first in mice and then in humans. This allowed the lab to show, first in mice and then in humans, that it is possible to successfully treat inflammatory autoimmune diseases just by changing the cytokines autoreactive T cells produced in vivo. This was originally established in a model of multiple sclerosis in mice and further developed as “cytokine mediated immune deviation” for psoriasis, the rationale for today’s anti-IL-17 or anti-IL-23 based immune therapies.
More recently, the laboratory explores the role of the adaptive immune system and of T cell cytokines for cancer therapies. The Röcken lab is especially interested in understanding the signals by which T cells can either impair or promote cancer development. They demonstrated that T cells cannot only kill cancer cells but that the immune system can efficiently arrest cancer growth by inducing a permanent growth arrest, called senescence, in cancer cells.
Importantly, this also applies to melanoma immune therapies with immune checkpoint inhibitors. The data show that these inhibitors control only those cancers where interferon-dominated immune responses can still arrest the cell cycle. In consequence, efficient cancer immune control requires the cytokine-induced cell cycle arrest to control those cancer cells that escape from the established cytotoxic mechanisms.
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