Dendritic Cell Subsets in Head and Neck Cancers
Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), comprising malignancies localized to the sinonasal cavities, the nasopharynx, the oral cavity, the oropharynx, the hypopharynx, and the larynx, is the 6th most frequent cancer worldwide. High mortality rate, impaired quality of life for affected individuals and its current treatment, i.e. surgery and radio/chemotherapy, warrant a need for improved therapy.
Dendritic cell (DC)-based immunotherapy is a promising approach to treat cancer considering DCs’ efficient antigen internalization, processing, and MHC-presentation capability leading to tumor specific T cell responses. The main goal of the approach is to engineer a tumor-specific cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response, supported by a back-up memory, which will eventually break the dampening tumor microenvironment tolerance and confer tumor regression/eradication. Human DCs is a heterogeneous population of cells comprising various subsets specific functionalities, and several of the identified subsets are promising therapeutic targets as they can cross-present antigens and induce CTL responses. The overall objective of this doctoral program is to extend our understanding on the role of specific DC subsets in the immune responses in HNSCC, in order to identify novel strategies for enhancing anti-tumor responses. The objective is also to assess cellular and molecular mechanisms linked to viral infections, resulting in impaired innate immunity, in HNSCC tumors. The project involves analysis of coding and non-coding RNAs in tumor cells and tumor-associated DCs and functional studies related to previously identified biomarkers using techniques such as RT-qPCR, flow cytometry, immunofluorescence microscopy and bead-based analysis of soluble analysts.