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Engineering a Biological Agent to Boost Brain Tumor Immunity


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Nearly 65 percent of brain cancer patients die within 5 years of diagnosis, a statistic that has not improved over the last 30 years. Even survivors suffer from debilitating defects in brain functions. While immunotherapy has been overwhelmingly successful in treating many types of tumors, clinical trials in brain tumors has not been successful, most likely due to two unique situations in brain tumors: first, the key antitumor immune cells called T cells cannot enter the brain, and second, even if they enter, the environmental factors in brain tumors are not supportive for T cell activities. In this grant application, we propose to harness a brain-tropic biological agent to solve both problems, by attracting T cells into brain tumors while creating a supportive brain environment for T cells. We also plan to engineer the biological agent to ensure its safety without compromising its effectiveness in boosting immunity. The knowledge gained here will inform us how the brain immune system can be activated to mount anti-tumor responses, which could lead to a paradigm shift in therapeutic strategies for brain cancer. Upon the completion of this project, we envision follow-up studies to test the combinatorial treatment between our agent and the current immunotherapy agents to determine if the combination will vastly increase the immune responses against brain tumors, which will take around two years. If successful, we should then move into clinical trials to assess the safety and efficacy of this treatment strategy in brain tumor patients, expecting not only to fundamentally improve survival but also to significantly enhance life quality.



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