The Sentinel


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Get to Know Sentinel Author: Kushal Prajapati

Kushal Prajapati
Name: Kushal Prajapati

Title: PhD Candidate

Employer: Loyola University Chicago

When and why did you become a SITC member?

I joined SITC in June of 2017 for many reasons. I have always felt that it is very important, especially for young scientists, to step outside of their labs and engage with researchers working in their field to keep up with the latest developments and gain fresh perspectives. This also allows you to join the on-going discussions about the major challenges in the field. Being in the Immuno-Oncology field, I thought SITC was a perfect platform offering all these opportunities! 

Who or what inspired you to choose this specific career path?

I have always been passionate about biomedical sciences research to make a meaningful impact in a fight against cancer-which still claims millions of lives every year worldwide. In my early research years while working on cancer biology, I came across the concept of tumor immunology for the first time and was immediately hooked! It totally made sense to use body's own biological machinery (immune system) to tackle it's own biological problem (cancer). Despite the success of immunotherapy against many cancers, I was driven to the field by a strong belief that there is enormous potential of the immune system yet to be unleashed. Last but not the least, the mentorship and training from my advisor, Dr. Jose A. Guevara, has always been an inspiration to work in this exciting field.

Can you briefly explain the work you are doing in the field?

One of the major reasons for limited clinical success of cancer immunotherapies (Anti-PD-1/CTLA-4, CAR-T-Cell Therapy) in solid tumors is tumor-induced immune suppression. The major goal of my research is to identify novel strategies to rescue function of CD8 T cells specifically from TGF-beta mediated immune-suppression in tumor micro-environment (TME). In particular, we study the role of co-stimulatory receptor NKG2D in countering the inhibitory effects of TGF-beta on CD8 T cells using a variety of transgenic mouse models and human peripheral blood lymphocytes.

What are some of the biggest challenges you are facing in the field?

We know now that in TME, function of killer CD8 T cells is compromised mainly due to highly immuno-suppressive factors such as TGF-beta, IL-10. However, these very immuno-suppressors are also often necessary for the function of other important components of the immune system and play a key role in preventing autoimmunity. Thus, one of the major challenges we face is to design therapeutic strategies to inhibit the effects of these molecules  specifically on CD8 T cells and promote cancer cell-killing. 

What topic(s) do you plan to write about for The Sentinel, SITC’s new blog?

I will be writing on crucial basic science discoveries aimed at reversing immune-suppression mediated by major factors (TGF-beta, IL-10, IDO) in TME, their potential to translate into immunotherapies, as well as latest developments in the areas of check-point blockade (Anti-PD-1/CTLA-4), CAR-T cell therapy, and novel chemo-immunotherapy approaches to boost the effector function of CD8 T cells against cancer. 

What do you hope readers will gain from this new blog?

Readers from the scientific community will gain thorough analysis of cutting-edge immunology research aimed at enhancing the function of killer CD8 T cells against cancer. Importantly, I will focus on what these findings mean for clinical immuno-oncology landscape. I also plan to write simplified explanations of major breakthroughs in the immuno-oncology field for patients and non-experts. 

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