Dr. Charlene Downey
Investigating murine models of lung cancer; the role of inflammation and cancer
While it was initially thought that the presence of immune cells within the tumor microenvironment was a positive prognosis, it is now well understood that the function of these cells has been suppressed by the tumor microenvironment and altered to assist in promoting tumor growth and progression. Therapeutically, targeting the tumor cells alone is no longer advantageous. Instead, combined therapy targeting the immune system simultaneously is potentially more beneficial to achieve complete tumor regression.
One such drug, a vascular disrupting agent, showed tremendous promise in preclinical trials and was rushed through Phases I-III clinical trials, however, it failed to recapitulate in humans the findings observed in the early mouse models.
Charlene’s research focused on identifying the mechanism of this agent using multiple mouse model systems. As a result, she identified an element as to why the drug may not have worked in humans. In addition she discovered a novel role for the drug as a macrophage repolarizing agent. Along with other recent advances in this area, a strong potential for re-introduction of this target into clinic is currently underway and will be discussed.