Our lab studies human dendritic cells, which are critical to the onset of cellular immunity. Dendritic cells also provide an important link between innate and adaptive immune responses. Our work is broadly informed by issues in clinical transplantation and tumor immunology.
We have three broad areas of interest in the lab regarding dendritic cell biology. One is the hematopoietic development of dendritic cells, which includes the discrete development, properties, and divisions of labor among well-defined dendritic cell subtypes. A second broad area concerns the immunogenic properties of dendritic cells for tumors and opportunistic pathogens. Some of these studies involve gene transfer to enhance sustained antigen presentation and T cell stimulation. Others involve comparisons of different dendritic cell subtypes for differential activity in stimulating responses by cytolytic T lymphocytes, NK cells, and NKT cells. The basis for such distinctions may include differences in cytokine secretion, cross-presentation, or handling of opsonized antigen by Fc receptors. Finally, we are conducting clinical trials from the lab to evaluate the safety, toxicity, and efficacy of dendritic cell vaccines for stimulating anti-tumor immunity in patients. The third broad area of investigation addresses the converse role of dendritic cells in tolerance rather than immunogenicity. We are specifically focused on molecules that deliver inhibitory signals to dendritic cells or chemical mediators that may provide a negative feedback loop via suppressor and/or induced regulatory T cells. We are also actively engaged in studies to determine the role of dendritic cells in the afferent arm of graft-versus-host disease and graft-vs-tumor effects in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplants.