The development of immunological memory is critical to long-term protection against infection. In acute infection, after T cells expand and clear the pathogen, they will contract and convert to memory T cells whose role is to surveil the body and mount a stronger response if rechallenged by the same pathogen. In certain chronic infections and cancer, T cells can possibly become exhausted and fail to develop into memory cells. Our lab is at the forefront of studying the genetic and transcriptional regulators of immunological memory and exhaustion. Understanding how immunological memory develops is critical to the design of long-lasting vaccines and novel approaches to fighting cancer with immunotherapy.
In cancer, rapid tumor growth is supported by the overconsumption of glucose and other nutrients in the surrounding microenvironment, and metabolic reprogramming by tumor cells to adapt to the altered nutrient environment. Immune cells within this altered environment adapt as well, but possibly by becoming exhausted and losing anti-tumor function. This metabolic regulation of immune cells allows tumors to evade immune response. Our lab is studying how immune cells adapt to these altered nutrient environments, particularly in regards to their exhaustion and effector function. Identifying the key genetic and metabolic regulators could reveal novel targets to turn immunologically “cold” tumors into “hot” ones that elicit strong anti-tumor immune responses.
03/19 – A great month in Kaechland! Kay Chung was awarded both a Salk Women & Science award and the AACR Anna D. Barker Basic Cancer Research Fellowship. Also winning awards are Karthik, who won a postdoctoral fellowship from the NOMIS Center, and Victor, who was awarded a T32 training fellowship. Congratulations to our awesome postdocs!