The Carson laboratory focuses our research on three main areas.
1. The use of cytokines either alone or in combination with targeted agents to treat malignant melanoma tumors.
The Carson lab is very interested in the mechanism of action of interferon-alpha and means to enhance its anti-tumor actions. Targeted agents of interest to our group include proteasome inhibitors, anti-angiogenic agents such as bevacizumab, and several tyrosine kinase inhibitors. Notably, many of these agents display synergistic anti-tumor activity when combined with immune-based treatments.
2. The use of cytokines to enhance the actions of anti-tumor monoclonal antibodies (mAb).
We have observed that co-administration of IL-12 can potentiate the anti-tumor actions of an anti-HER2/neu mAb (trastuzumab or Herceptin) that is used to treat patients with HER2/neu-expressing breast cancers. This data has served as the basis for several NCI-sponsored phase I clinical trials which employ mAbs in combination with IL-12. Recent work from our lab indicates that other immune stimulatory agents may be able to uniquely augment the immune response to anti-tumor mAbs. Agents that are currently under investigation include toll-like receptor agonists and novel cytokines such as IL-21.
3. The effects of stress on the immune system of patients diagnosed with cancer.
We hypothesize that stress can significantly inhibit the host immune response in the setting of cancer and have discovered that natural killer cell function provides an important "window" onto this process. We are currently collaborating with Professor Barbara Andersen in the Department of Psychology who is investigating the effects of behavioral and psychological interventions on the immune function of women with stage II and stage III breast cancer. Our goal is to define the mechanisms that underlie the altered immune response of cancer patients and explore ways to reverse this inhibition in order to enhance the effects of immune-based therapies.