T Cell Biology

Areas of Interest: Greater knowledge of T-cell biology is essential for the creation of more efficient and effective immunological tools to fight cancer. The PIIO is working with scientists from several departments and divisions across The Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital to broaden our understanding of cancer CD8 T-cell memory, regulatory T-cells, T follicular helper cells, bispecific T cell engagers, immune senescence,  T-cell metabolism, and regulation of T-cell differentiation and function in the tumor microenvironment.


Innate Immunity and Inflammation

Areas of Interest: Although great strides have been made in the field of immunotherapy, current treatment strategies remain effective in only a minority of patients. One method of solving this problem may be greater targeting of the innate immune response, strengthening this first line of defense. To explore new and excited IO therapeutic interventions with respect to innate immunity, the PIIO will leverage expertise in the areas of NK cells, myeloid cells, inflammation, and oncolytic viral-immunotherapy.


Cell Therapy Program

Areas of Interest: In collaboration with the Division of Hematology, the Blood and Marrow Transplant Program, and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the PIIO will develop and advance cellular therapy for cancer. This includes adoptive therapy with T cells (polyclonal T cells, TCR-transduced T cells, CAR-T and other T-cell subsets), natural killer (NK) cells and other gene-edited/engineered immune cells or hematopoietic stem cells as well as dendritic cell-based cancer vaccines.

By using cellular therapy, OSUCCC – James subspecialists can manipulate a patient’s immune system, expanding it and unleashing it to fight back against cancer. Innovative treatments such as CAR T-cell therapy, NK cell therapy and others are sometimes serving as a first-line treatment, offering an effective, less harsh treatment plan than chemotherapy or radiation therapy.


Immunogenomics and Cancer Vaccines

Areas of Interest: Big data and quantitative science are shaping the field of biology and every aspect of cancer medicine. Immunology and oncology are not exceptions. Working with experts in the field of cancer genomics at the OSUCCC – James, the Institute of Genomic Medicine at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, as well as Ohio State’s Department of Biomedical Informatics, the PIIO will play a leading role in advancing science and technology of immunogenomics in the following areas: single cell-based functional immuno-profiling of the tumor microenvironment; neoantigen discovery; T-cell receptor (TCR) sequencing and identification for neoantigen-specific T cells for T-cell therapy; and uncovering the intricate relationship between cancer genomics and immune evasion, to name a few.


Translational IO

Areas of Interest: Expertise in translational research will be critical for transforming exciting IO discoveries into new/improved cancer treatments and even cures. The PIIO is partnering with the Drug Development Institute and other experts with proven track records in clinical translation in the areas of targeted therapy, genetics, gene therapy, radiation therapy, cellular therapy, immune checkpoint blockers, oncolytic viral immunotherapy and others.


Next-Generation Immuno-Oncology Therapeutics (IO 2.0)

The first generation of immuno-oncology therapeutics (IO 1.0) encompasses PD-1/PD-L1/CTLA4-targeted ICI, CD19-CAR-T cells, T-Vec (Imlygic), hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, immune-stimulatory cytokines (IL-2 and interferon), sipuleucel-T (Provenge), and innate stimuli (e.g., BCG for TCC of the bladder).

The field of cancer immunology is poised for the explosive growth of second-generation IO agents. The PIIO will play key roles in fundamental research and in leading IO clinical trials for developing IO 2.0. This will be pursued in collaboration with multiple academic units at Ohio State, including the Department of Microbial Infection and Immunity. Some exciting areas of development include:

Regulatory T cells (Tregs) and Immune Tolerance. Tregs are key cell types in mediating peripheral tolerance and constitute one of the major cellular mechanisms in immune evasions executed by cancer. An effective strategy to tame or augment Treg activity and function will be vital for the treatment of a variety of immunological diseases.

Synthetic Immunology, Cytokine Biology and Therapy. Both cell- and molecular-based synthetic immunology are extremely important and promising for generating novel therapeutic modalities. Examples include gene-edited T cells, new generation IL-2 and IL-15 agonists, TGF-b antagonists, bispecific T cell engagers, and other bispecific antibodies.

Microbiome. The impact of the microbiome on host immunity against cancer is increasingly recognized. The PIIO will collaborate with microbiologists at Ohio State to understand the roles of microbiomes in shaping antitumor immunity.

Myeloid Cells, Platelets and Other Stromal Cells. Progression and metastasis of solid tumors are often accompanied by increased myelopoiesis and migration of immunosuppressive myeloid cells and platelets to the site of tumors. This area is poised for major basic science breakthroughs as well as the emergence of novel immunotherapeutics, either alone or in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs).

Investigators: All current members of the PIIO engage in research for the development of next-generation IO products (IO 2.0). However, a major recruitment effort is underway in this area, with a targeted recruitment of 20-plus additional faculty members.

Immune Monitoring and Discovery

Areas of Interest: In collaboration with the OSUCCC Shared Resources and leaders in the fields of mass cytometry and immune monitoring, the PIIO aims to strengthen the technology platform for Immune Monitoring and Discovery (IMD). To do so, we are building a Single Cell Platform for Genomics and Immunology, a Tumor Microenvironment Core with a multi-dimensional mass cytometer capability to examine tumor tissues at high resolution, and an Immuno-Informatics center to deeply mine and probe big data and advance fundamental cancer immunology. In addition, we also plan to establish an Antibody and Cell Therapy Core to enable GMP production of both antibody and cell-based immunotherapeutics for supporting investigator-initiated clinical trials. We expect to launch many of the IMD core components in 2020.


PIIO Seeks Multiple Tenure-Track Faculty Positions


The OSUCCC – James is seeking experienced tenure-track faculty (basic as well as clinical researchers) to work in the Pelotonia Institute for Immuno-Oncology.

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