Cancer immunology AMA
Hi Reddit! I’m Jessica Strid, Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London and member of one of the Ethical Committee overseeing animal research. My research team and I are currently focusing on how the immune system regulate cancer using a combination of cell cultures, animal models, and human tissues. Ask Me Anything.
About my research
In humans, epithelial skin cancers are on the rise. Our body surface tissues are constantly exposed to challenges from the environment – such as for example UV irradiation from the sun or damaging chemicals from pollution. This can damage our cells and in some cases also our DNA, which can lead to cellular dysregulation and if not controlled – to cancer.
Research in my group aim to understand how specialised immune cells resident in our body-surface tissues, such as the skin, recognise and respond to stressed or dysregulated cells.
The interactions of the human immune system with stressed or dysregulated cells in the tissues, are complex and not fully understood therefore animal models are necessary to fully reveal what takes place in the human body.
We have found that the immune cells in the tissues constantly recognise damaged cells and can either repair these or eradicate them. This process is called cancer immune-surveillance and is important in lowering the risk of cancer developing in that tissue.
Our research methods
Research involving animals forms an important element of our work, but is not undertaken lightly. To reduce animal work as much as we can, we routinely use cell culture methods where we study cells in isolation in culture dishes. We also use commercially available cell lines for this cell culture work.
In addition, we study human samples from consented patients and volunteers. As the techniques available are getting more sophisticated all the time, we can get more information from human samples than ever before – and thus can minimise animal work. However, to measure the responses of immune cells within tissues and their integration with immunity throughout the body, some use of mice is still critical for our research.
My commitment to animal welfare is reflected in my role as member of ethical committees that oversee the animal research activities at Imperial College London to implement and promote the development of best practice in animal research.
Cancer Immunology research by me and my team:
Crawford G, Hayes MD, Castro-Seoane R, Ward S, Dalessandri T, Lai C, Healy E, Kipling D, Proby C, Moyes C, Green K, Best K, Haniffa M, Botto M, Dunn-Walters D and Strid J: Epithelial damage and tissue γδ T cells promote a unique tumor-protective IgE response. Nat Immunol 2018, 19(8): 859
- Highlighted in ‘News and Views’ article: γδT cells and IgE team up to prevent tumors. Nat Immunol 2018, 19(8): 793
- ‘Research highlight’ article: IgE in skin stress surveillance. Nat Review Immunol 2018, 18: 540
- Received global press coverage with the total audience exceeding one million
This recent paper by my team showed that a type of antibody (IgE) which is normally associated with allergic responses is very important in monitoring skin health. Our research showed that IgE and immune cells that bind to IgE protect against the development of skin cancer in mice. Having these cells present in the skin also strongly correlates with good prognosis in human skin cancer, so we hypothesise that the same is true in human skin, which we now aim to investigate in more detail.
D’Alessandri T, Castro-Seoane R, Crawford G, Hayes M and Strid J: IL-13 from intraepithelial lymphocyte regulates tissue homeostasis and protects against carcinogenesis in the skin. Nat Commun 2016, Jun 30; 7: 12080
This paper also looked at how the skin stays healthy and how immune cells in this tissue prevents the development of skin cancer. We found that a protein called IL-13, released from T cells in the skin, is important for maintaining an intact skin barrier and for continually protecting against skin cancer initiation.
UPDATE [11.45AM ET / 4.45PM GMT]: Thanks very much for your great questions everyone! I’m heading off for now but we’ll be checking back in, so please do submit any more questions you may have.
And a big thanks to r/IAmA for hosting this AMA!