Annis, Jessica (Brown)
The immune system is an intricate system of cells communicating through soluble and non-soluble factors, the summation of which is response tailored to fight a specific type of insult such as clearance of a viral or bacterial infection. The immune response to cancer is particularly interesting, because it is not a pathogen that the immune system is responding to, it is in essence, pathological self. Sensing self against non-self and danger against non-danger are key processes in initiating an immune response, and immune cell development and education go to great lengths to ensure that the immune response is not activated by the normal body cells and antigens. Overcoming this great hurdle of the formation and maintenance of a successful anti-cancer immune environment will start at the beginning: the innate response and the bridge between innate and adaptive immunity. Natural Killer (NK) cell – Dendritic cell (DC) communication is an integral part of this environmental establishment and many different pathways involved in the cancer microenvironment go through these cells. The interaction between NK cells and DCs leads to the functional maturation of both cell types including an increased ability of DCs to activate a T cell-mediated immune response and NK cells to lyse target cells. This taken together with evidence of NK cell hypo-functionality and DCs with impaired antigen presentation and costimulatory receptor expression in the tumor microenvironment introduces several questions regarding the role of NK-DC interactions. My research aims to explore mechanisms of NK-DC communication and the contributions of these interactions to NK cell function (and dysfunction) in cancer.