Department of Microbiology and Immunology
News...Prominent Recognition for Drs. Norris and Wu
The immune system is our natural defense fighting cancer development. Dysfunction of the immune system can lead to a high risk of cancer development and progression. In collaboration with clinicians at the University of Washington, the research team in the Wu lab has identified the mechanisms by which prostate cancer cells disarm the innate immune system at the cellular level which facilitates disease progress to metastasis. With this understanding, the Wu lab further developed a cancer-specific antibody that has shown great efficacy in restoring the natural function of the immune system in the cancer host and which has now been shown to treat metastatic prostate cancer in pre-clinical “humanized” animal models. This study was recently accepted for publication by the high impact Journal of Clinical Investigation (JCI) and selected as a research highlight.
On the same day, work from Dr. Norris’s group describing a small molecule inhibitor of acid ceramidase that sensitizes cancer cell to radiation therapy by perturbing cancer cell sphingolipid metabolism was also accepted by JCI. Through a collaboration, the two research groups (Wu and Norris) showed that the small molecule drug could also sensitize prostate cancer cells to immune cell destruction. The novel treatment concept of combining an immune stimulatory antibody with an acid ceramidase inhibitor was recently funded by the Prostate Cancer Foundation as a Challenge Award to study treating metastatic prostate cancer in the “human-like” pre-clinical animal models.