Dr Misty Jenkins
Our research team investigates the biology of white blood cells called cytotoxic lymphocytes. These cells are the serial killers of the immune system, and it’s their job to seek and destroy cancerous and virus infected cells. We are studying the cell biology behind how killer lymphocytes acquire the ability to kill and detach from cancer cells.
Recent advances in cancer immunotherapy have aimed to recruit the immune system to fight cancer; this has shown great clinical promise.
Our work is trying to understand the cell biology of an effective immune response to extend these therapies to cover a broader range of malignancies, and allow for sustained immune responses.
Our team is focused on a number of projects that investigate cytotoxic lymphocyte responses (both CD8+ T lymphocyte and natural killer (NK) cells) to cancer. Both CD8+ T cells and NK cells kill cancer cells via similar and conserved mechanisms. Our research aims to understand various aspects of the killing process: the interplay between killer lymphocytes and other immune cells, and the subsequent consequences for the immune system.
Our projects utilise live cell imaging techniques, together with cellular immunology approaches.
We research two main types of immunotherapy:
- Passive immunotherapy employing monoclonal antibodies to molecules on the cell surface (known as tumour-associated antigens).
- Adoptive T-cell therapy using Chimeric Antigen Receptor T (CAR-T) cells engineered to recognise and attack cancer cells.
The biological understanding and development of new immunotherapies has undergone a revolution in the past decade. Our research will provide insights into the working of engineered killer cells and we anticipate that our research will ultimately reveal enhanced strategies for targeting tumour antigens by the immune system, to give long-term persistence in patients.