From the Left: Dr. Hyun-Il Cho, Dr. Young Ran Lee, Dr. Esteban Celis, Jacqueline Ahn, Alicia Nassar, Kelly Barrios
Research Interests:
Our goal is to define the capacity of synthetic peptides to induce
cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) responses to tumor-associated antigens as a means of developing specific immunotherapy for various types of malignancies including breast, colon, lung, prostate and skin cancer. CTL recognize antigenic peptides (epitopes) derived from "processed" proteins and bound to major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I molecules. We aim to identify CTL epitopes in various types of tumor-associated antigens (TAA), which are expressed preferentially in tumor cells. Potential CTL epitopes have been selected from peptide sequences of tissue specific proteins, oncogene products and developmental antigens by screening for specific anchor binding motifs for MHC molecules and performing quantitative binding assays. The synthetic peptides from TAA that bind with sufficient affinity to purified MHC molecules, are tested in vitro for their ability to induce tumor-specific CTL responses using human blood lymphocytes.

Current Projects
  • Peptide-based Immunotherapy: Validation and optimization of peptide based immunization strategy to elicit and expand antigen specific CD8 T cells, capable of effectively recognizing tumor cells.
  • Epitope Spreading: Screening for new CD8 T cell epitopes for lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and melanoma.
  • Therapy Targeting HPV-Induced Tumors: Optimize a peptide-based vaccine capable of eliciting a CTL response against tumors induced by Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) using peptides derived from the E7 oncogene.