CIC Research Associate Ashley Wilson Receives Prestigious DoD Postdoctoral Fellowship Award

July 8, 2016 by klm3b@virginia.edu

Dr. Ashley Wilson, a CIC Research Associate in the Engelhard Lab, was recently awarded a Department of Defense (DOD) Peer-Reviewed Cancer Research Program (PRCRP) Horizon Award. The one-year postdoctoral fellowship has a special focus on melanoma and skin-related cancers. Given that the presence of infiltrating T cells in melanoma is associated with a good prognosis, the proposed research aims to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms controlling T cell infiltration into tumors. Specifically, Dr. Wilson’s work will investigate how molecules displayed on the vasculature interact with T cells and promote their exit from the bloodstream and entry into tumors. Furthermore, as tumors progress, the role of the microenvironment becomes complex. Advanced disease can be associated with an immunosuppressive microenvironment, where different cell types within the tumor function to inhibit T cell-mediated immunity. Therapies that disrupt immunosuppression are a current strategy used to treat patients with melanoma. A second major goal of Dr. Wilson’s fellowship project will test the hypothesis that interfering with immunosuppression will help increase T cell entry into tumors. This work will have immediate clinical impact given that agents that interfere with immunosuppressive pathways (e.g. checkpoint blockade inhibitors) are already FDA approved for the treatment of patients with melanoma.