Our immune system surveils and protects every organ in our bodies by repairing injuries, destroying pathogens and killing cancer cells.

The Immunology Center of Georgia (IMMCG) represents a new initiative by the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University to leverage the ability of the immune system to combat disease. The IMMCG will accomplish this by assembling teams of biomedical researchers with strong records of scientific innovation and technological development.

The IMMCG will be co-directed by world-class immunologists Drs. Catherine ‘Lynn’ Hedrick and Klaus Ley, both of whom have made major discoveries linking immune cells to specific mechanisms of disease.

The goal of the IMMCG is to produce novel and effective treatments for conditions that heavily impact the communities of Georgia and the United States. The new center is aggressively recruiting faculty and staff to lead projects focused on cardiovascular disease, obesity and metabolic disorders, autoimmune and infectious disease, neurodegenerative disease and cancer.



Specific monocyte populations control anti-tumoral therapy

LJI research reveals how certain monocytes are tailor-made to help fight cancer

Daniel J. Araujo, Ph.D.

La Jolla, CA - Non-small cell lung carcinoma (NSCLC) represents the leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide. Immune cells rapidly respond to NSCLC and can promote or inhibit cancer growth based on the signals they receive.

One important signal that controls immune cell activity is called Programmed Cell Death Protein 1 (PD-1), which is stimulated by its partner PD-L1. PD-L1 is typically abundant on cancer cells, but it can also be present on immune cells. This is a problem because PD-1:PD-L1 signaling deactivates immune cells and is linked to worse outcomes in cancer patients.

Immunotherapy that inhibits PD-1:PD-L1 signaling on immune cells (also known as PD-1 blockade) is anti-tumoral and is beneficial to patients with NSCLC. Unfortunately, PD-1 blockade is not always effective and some patients eventually acquire resistance to the treatment. Thus, there is a pressing need to improve our understanding of how immune cells predict responsiveness to anti-PD-1 therapy.

In a study recently published in Frontiers in Immunology, Dr. Hedrick and her team profiled blood from patients with NSCLC that received anti-PD-1 immunotherapy. The goal of the study was to identify immune cell populations and markers associated the treatment’s usefulness.

Dr. Hedrick and her colleagues discovered that certain monocytes, which are innate immune cells that quickly react to bodily threats, can be used to predict the responsiveness of patients to PD-1 blockade. In particular, the study found that the monocyte marker CD33 correlates with improved responsiveness to anti-PD-1 therapy in patients with NSCLC. The researchers discovered increased numbers of CD14+CD33+ monocytes in patients responsive to PD-1 blockade. The researchers also identified other monocyte subsets and markers linked to positive anti-PD-1 therapy outcomes.

This work highlights the diversity of monocytes during NSCLC and illustrates the potentially large roles that certain monocyte subsets play in controlling the success of PD-1 blockade. Future work will focus on understanding the immunological functions of these specific monocyte populations during immunotherapy.

Citation: Olingy C, Alimadadi A, Araujo DJ, Barry D, Gutierrez NA, Werbin MH, Arriola E, Patel SP, Ottensmeier CH, Dinh HQ and Hedrick CC (2022). CD33 Expression on Peripheral Blood Monocytes Predicts Efficacy of Anti-PD-1 Immunotherapy Against Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer. Front. Immunol. 13:842653. DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.842653

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