Tumor Immunology Program (TIP)

Program Co-Leaders: Robert Schreiber, PhD, and William Gillanders, MD

Overview:

For more than 30 years, the immunology community at Washington University School of Medicine (WUSM) has had a strong reputation for the significant breadth and depth of its contributions to the field of immunology and its highly interactive/collaborative nature. A strategic decision was made 20 years ago to promote basic science research in tumor immunology and establish an infrastructure to facilitate clinical translation of cancer immunotherapies at Siteman Cancer Center (SCC) and WUSM through the creation of a Tumor Immunology Program (TIP) as an integral component of the newly forming NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. This was a prescient strategic decision, and the number of SCC laboratories currently performing research related to tumor immunology has increased significantly. Of note, there has been a concomitant increase in the number of laboratories participating in translational tumor immunology research and the number of investigator-initiated cancer immunotherapy clinical trials in the current project period. This increase in translational research has been achieved through the creation of an environment that facilitates and encourages interactions and collaborations between basic scientists and physician-scientists particularly between SCC research programs, and where state-of-the-art resources and infrastructure are available to catalyze the translation of these basic science research findings into novel therapeutic opportunities.

Aims:

To accomplish its mission, the program leaders developed four scientific aims that are aligned with the central themes that define our program.

  1. Develop new and/or expand existing experimental models to better recapitulate the dynamic interplay between the immune system and developing or established tumors in cancer patients.
  2. Identify molecules that serve as targets of innate and adaptive anti-tumor immune responses, and develop strategies to enhance the recognition of these molecules as a platform for novel immunotherapies.
  3. Define the roles of immune cells in the tumor microenvironment and elsewhere in promoting or suppressing anti-tumor immune responses.
  4. Translate basic immunologic research into clinically relevant tests, interventions, and clinical trials.

Facts and Figures:

  • The TIP has 23 members from six departments at WUSM.
  • The program is supported by $13.7 million in funding, with $2.91 million from the NCI and $5.10 million from other peer-reviewed funding.
  • TIP members published 647 manuscripts from 2014-2018, with 39% from inter-programmatic collaborations and 21% from intra-programmatic collaborations.
  • During 2014-2018, TIP members initiated or supported 256 cancer immunotherapy clinical trials. Although the accruals to these were allocated to SCC’s disease-focused research programs (STTP, BCRP, and HDMP), TIP members facilitated accrual to these trials (1,544 interventional treatment accruals, including 501 (32%) to investigator-initiated studies).