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Dissecting how breast cancer-associated inflammation shapes invariant natural killer T cell activity during metastatic progression


Breast cancer is the second cause of cancer-related death in women. Although cancer immunotherapy emerged as a successful therapy for many cancer types, the response of metastatic breast cancer patients to immune checkpoint blockade remains disappointing, urging for a better understanding of the breast cancer immune landscape. iNKT cells are lipid-specific T cells that bridge innate and adaptive immunity and exert a plethora of immune functions depending on tissue distribution. Despite their known antitumor potential, they have been largely overlooked in the cancer field for their content paucity in cancer patients. I hypothesize that their scarce abundance and poor activation status is caused by cancer-induced immunosuppressive mechanisms. Indeed, I observed that circulating and metastasis-infiltrating iNKT cells are functionally impaired in the K14cre;Cdh1F/F;Trp53F/F(KEP)-based mouse model of de novo breast cancer metastases. With a translational approach, I will provide an unprecedented comprehensive dataset comparing iNKT cell immunophenotype in metastatic breast cancer patients and healthy controls. Next, I will generate human iNKT cell lines to perform in vitro mechanistic studies aimed at assessing how cancer-associated inflammation can modulate iNKT cell antitumor activity. Moreover, the innovative use of iNKT cell deficient Jα18-/- mice coupled to the KEP-based model of breast cancer metastases, will offer a clear picture of the role of iNKT cells and their cancer-associated cellular networks during the metastatic cascade. Finally, I will in vivo deplete immunosuppressive cells to unleash iNKT cell antitumor activity. My solid knowledge of iNKT cell biology combined with the expertise in breast cancer-associated inflammation of the hosting lab and the cutting-edge clinical research of the institute will uniquely generate fundamental knowledge with high applicative potential for the design of novel combinatorial immunotherapies for metastatic breast cancer.

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Plesmanlaan 121
1066 CX Amsterdam
Activity type
Research Organisations
EU contribution
€ 175 572,48