C2ST Presents the 2018 FNIH Lurie Prize in Biomedical Sciences Winner Zhijian ‘James’ Chen, PhD

Watch the Q&A portion here.

 

A recent breakthrough in our war against cancer is the development of therapies that harness our body’s immune system to seek out and destroy tumor cells. While such immunotherapies have significantly prolonged the life of some patients who had previously exhausted all treatment options, the majority of cancer patients still do not benefit from existing immunotherapies. Thus, there is an urgent need to devise new therapies that can benefit a larger population of cancer patients. A better understanding of the body’s immune system is also very important for the prevention and treatment of a growing list of autoimmune and inflammatory diseases, such as lupus, arthritis and neurodegenerative diseases. In these diseases, the immune system misfires and attacks our own tissues. Our immune system is also crucial for defending us from infections by a large variety of microbial pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, and parasites. Key to our understanding of the immune system is how it detects microbial pathogens and cancer cells and how it avoids attacking our own tissues in normal situations. An important mechanism of this immune detection is the detection of DNA from microbial pathogens and cancer cells. Our lab discovered the DNA sensing enzyme cGAS and the pathway through which cGAS launches immune and autoimmune responses. Dr. Chen will discuss the current status of immunotherapies and describe efforts in harnessing the cGAS pathway to fight cancer and autoimmune diseases.

 

This program is generously supported by the Ann Lurie Trust.