Department of Dermatology

Storkus Lab

Our laboratory studies tumor immunobiology and designs immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer based results gained in translational murine models and human in vitro studies, with the near-term goal of developing novel phase I/II clinical trials for the treatment of patients with melanoma or renal cell carcinoma. Such modalities have included dendritic cell (DC)-based vaccines, cytokine gene-modified DC injected directly into tumor lesions and combinational approaches integrating agents that modulate tumor cell immune recognition or alter the balance or Type-1 versus regulatory immunity in the tumor microenvironment. Most recently, we have discovered that immune targeting of the tumor-associated vasculature occurs naturally as a consequence of effective immunotherapy (via DC1-based cross-priming of T cells), and that vaccines based on tumor-associated blood vessel antigens (TBVA) can promote tumor regression even in cases where cancer cells cannot be directly recognized by the protective CD8+ immune system. We have also recently determined that anti-angiogenic agents such as the TKIs sunitinib, axitinib and dasatinib all lead to tumor vascular normalization and to the improved delivery of anti-TBVA or anti-tumor  T cells into the tumor microenvironment (TME) allowing for improve anti-tumor efficacy. Prospective interests include the therapeutic development of tertiary lymphoid structures (TLS) within the TME in vivo that effectively turn portions of the tumor into peripheral lymph node-like organs, where protective immunity may be initiated and better directed at proximal neoplastic cells and the trialing of combination immunotherapies integrating immune checkpoint inhibitors.