The immune system is the body’s first line of defense against infection and disease and, as such, plays a central role in detecting and eliminating cancers and other harmful agents, like viruses and bacteria. Sometimes, however, immune defenses break down, allowing infections to take hold, or cancer cells to evade detection and proliferate. Metabolic pathways, which regulate cellular energy and function, are emerging as central players in the immune system’s ability to protect against cancer and infections. Growing evidence also points to disruptions in metabolic pathways as a facilitator of cancers’ ability to thwart the immune system. Understanding how malignant cells and pathogens take advantage of these gaps in anti-tumor immunity has great potential for translation into targeted therapies and anti-cancer vaccines.
To this end, the Krawczyk Laboratory investigates the mechanisms that underlie interactions between the immune system, metabolism and cellular programming with the goal of developing new treatments for cancer, infections, autoimmunity and neuroinflammation. Specifically, they are investigating transcriptional and translational regulation in dendritic and T cells — both specialized immune cell types — and exploring the metabolic profiles of differentially activated dendritic cells in the context of cancer immune surveillance, vaccine development and infection.