Understanding and effectively targeting factors that render tumors and metastases resistant to the immune system and conventional therapy is critical to improving long-term outcomes in cancer patients. Such factors of immune tolerance have greatly limited the impact of approved cancer immunotherapies, as single agent responses are limited to 10-30% of patients. Our lab is using various approaches to explore this biology and develop new treatments with a focus on targeting tumor intrinsic factors such as genetic programs like the epithelial to mesenchymal transition that coordinate with infiltrating immune cells to enhance therapeutic resistance and assist distant spread.
Led by a practicing radiation oncologist and physician-scientist, the Aguilera Lab aims to capitalize on our diverse expertise to study the biology of the immune microenvironment from animal models to our patients in the clinic. We aim to (1) contribute to our fundamental understanding of radiation and its impact on the immune response, (2) develop immunologic treatment strategies for a variety of cancers, and (3) combine our chemistry and engineering background to develop new agents that exploit this emerging biology.