Novel Single-Cell Analyses of Tumor-Specific T-cells in Merkel Cell Carcinoma

Type of Award: Catalyst
Date Awarded: September 2017
Award End Date: August 2019
Amount Awarded: $ 250,000.00
PI(s): Jaehyuk Choi, NU; Jun Huang, UChicago;

Abstract: Despite significant advances in cancer immunotherapy, it is still unclear why the responses to these potentially curative treatments are heterogeneous. This is partally because of our inability, until recently, to identify and characterize, a patient's entire repertoire of anti-tumor T cells. Current approaches can only detect functionally competent tumor antigen-specific T cells. To overcome this obstacle, we have developed novel single-cell technologies that allow for efficient isolation and comprehensive functional interrogation of tumor-specific T cells. These methods have better sensitivity and defined specificity than current approaches. We propose to validate our approach on Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC), a uniquely immunogenic cancer ideally suited for this study. We will utilize orthogonal single-cell and population based assays to comprehensively elucidate the number and the functional readiness of MCC-specific T cells. These experiments promise to improve our understanding of the immunological heterogeneity present among MCC patients and will validate a novel analytical pipeline that has potentially broad applicability.