Joy Li

Investigating the Immunological Effects of STING Pathway Activators in Spontaneous Tumor Models

One of the major hallmarks of cancer is the evasion of the immune system; thus, current cancer immunotherapies aim to modify the host immune system to specifically target tumor cells and repress tumor progression. Recent studies have investigated an immune pathway called the cGAS-Stimulator of IFN genes (STING) that is involved in the induction of an anti-tumor response. STING pathway activators, such as cyclic dinucleotides, (CDN) have been shown to result in stable regressions of established tumors. Currently however, researchers mostly rely on subcutaneous tumor models, which is a limited approach since it does not accurately simulate real-life progression of tumor growth. I am planning to test effects of CDN on a genetically engineered mouse model that gives rise to spontaneous tumors, which are more akin to naturally-developing tumors. My project aims to investigate the immunological differences between the conventional transplanted tumor model and the spontaneous tumor model before and after CDN therapy. Understanding the mechanisms of CDN-induced tumor repression, including the responsible immune cell types and immune mediators, is important for developing better translational immunotherapies.

Message to Sponsor

I would like to express my utmost gratitude to the Rose Hills Foundation and the SURF staff for providing me the support I needed to carry out my very own independent research project this past summer. Your contributions have allowed me to fully immerse myself in research full-time without worrying about living expenses. From this experience, I was able to expand my horizons and grow as an individual in academia. I not only had the opportunity to delve further in the world of science and experimentation, but also have a head start on my honors thesis, meet with like-minded peers, and gain experience sharing my research with others. I am excited for the innovative and diverse projects that future students have in store in the upcoming years, and this would all not have been possible without your support!
  • Major: Molecular & Cell Biology
  • Mentor: David Raulet