Massey researcher awarded grant to develop treatment for metastatic cancer
VCU Massey Cancer Center researcher Paula Bos, Ph.D., was recently awarded a 2016 Metastatic Cancer Research Grant from METAvivor Research and Support Inc. The grant funding will support Bos in expanding her research on brain metastasis. She previously published a well-received lung study demonstrating that inhibition of regulatory T (Treg) cells, a class of immune cells that suppress immune responses and benefit tumor growth, can significantly improve metastasis-free survival. Metastatic breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women. Brain metastasis represents an advanced stage where targeted treatment options are lacking. Treg cells are conspicuously present in mouse and human primary and metastatic tumors, and they correlate with poor prognosis in many cancers.
“Given that we lack the means of targeting Treg cells in humans, the results of our studies will provide the opportunity to devise innovative therapeutic options to interfere with their function,” said Bos, a member of Massey’s Cancer Cell Signaling and Cancer Molecular Genetics research programs and an assistant professor in pathology at the VCU School of Medicine.
Bos hopes that her research discoveries will have the potential to benefit patients at advanced stages of metastatic disease. “Using a mouse model of breast cancer, we showed that killing these cells inhibits tumor and lung metastatic growth, significantly prolonging disease-free survival in those mice,” said Bos. “We learned that Treg cells modify the tumor soil, making it more hospitable to cancer cells, and we plan to study how they accomplished that.”
Bos’ research focuses on the characterization of regulatory T cell interactions with the tumor microenvironment that foster tumor progression and dissemination. Using genetic models that allow the manipulation of components of the environment, Bos’ research team is trying to understand the reprogramming that takes place upon removal of the Treg cell compartment, which leads to regression of tumors and disseminated disease.
METAvivor Research and Support Inc. is a non-profit organization dedicated to funding research for Stage IV metastatic breast cancer. To learn more about METAvivor, visit www.metavivor.org.