Institute scientist receives American Cancer Society Grant to study improved cancer immunotherapy

Published 1:59 pm Thursday, February 16, 2023

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Vivek Verma, PhD, assistant professor and section leader of the Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy and Immune Metabolism at The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, has received a grant from the American Cancer Society

The $40,000 American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant will allow Dr. Verma and his team to study the effects of metabolism in CD8 T cells, which could improve cancer immunotherapy treatment approaches.

“Currently, there are not many methods available that can be used for targeting cellular metabolism,” Verma said. “This study will allow us to work on developing a molecule with the potential to improve CD8 T cell metabolism with the goal of improving the clinical benefit from cancer immunotherapy.”

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CD8 T cells are a type of white blood cells that play a very important role in the immune system. These cells are cytotoxic, meaning that they are toxic to virus-infected cells and cancer cells. 

The anti-viral or anti-cancer activities of these cells depends on their metabolic fitness. Cells that are metabolically fit are exhausted prematurely and die, without killing the cancer cell or the virus infected cells. The success of cancer immunotherapy, a new and potent anti-cancer approach, depends on the metabolic fitness of CD8 T cells. 

Immunotherapy has great potential for producing long term responses without the toxicities caused by other cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation therapy. 

Institutional Research Grants from the American Cancer Society provide seed money for newly independent investigators to initiate cancer research projects. The intent is to support junior faculty in initiating cancer research projects so they can obtain preliminary results that will enable them to compete successfully for national research grants.