Undergraduate Student, Level IV
I am in my fourth year of an Arts and Science and Biology combined honours undergraduate degree. While my past lab experiences have been centered on ecology, I have always been interested in the abilities of the immune system to combat disease. After learning about Natural Killer cells in an immunology class, the potential for NK cells to be used as a cancer immunotherapy became a particular interest of mine.
My fourth year thesis focuses on determining why transgene expression rapidly decreases in expanded NK cells over time. Previous attempts to develop effective chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-based NK cell cancer therapies have been hindered by the fact that NK cell populations cease to stably express the CAR construct after transduction with third generation lentivirus containing the CAR transgene. Interestingly, such decreases in transgene expression is not observed in T cells transduced with the same CAR construct, which suggests that expanded NK cells may have intrinsic mechanisms that impede transgene expression. Determining when and how transgene expression is suppressed by expanded NK cells is imperative for the development of effective CAR NK cell cancer therapies.