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Tumor Host Interactions Research Program


The Tumor Host Interactions (THI) Program brings together investigators studying the complex interactions between tumors and normal tissues. THI includes investigators seeking to understand and exploit tumor/host crosstalk, such as tumor-stroma interactions, tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, angiogenesis, lymph-angiogenesis, tumor-specific immune responses, or site specific niche environments, with the ultimate goal of preventing or alleviating tumor initiation, progression or recurrence​

Major Goals

The goals of the Tumor Host Interactions (THI) program are to characterize and understand, at the cellular, molecular and at a whole organism level, the interplay between the tumor microenvironment and various components of the host and decipher how these interactions contribute to therapy resistance or response. 

We seek to harness the power of preclinical modeling of tumor-stroma interactions, tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, angiogenesis, lymph-angiogenesis, tumor-specific immune responses, or site specific niche environments, with the ultimate goal of creating and testing clinical translational approaches aimed at preventing or alleviating tumor initiation, progression or recurrence, to elucidate how crosstalk between tumor and host influence disease initiation and evolution, progression, and therapeutic responsiveness, with the ultimate goal of intervening in the cancer process. The expertise of program members includes members with expertise in deciphering molecular mechanisms, translational scientists and clinicians advancing novel therapies towards clinical application.

Scientific Aims

Aim 1: Cancer interactions with neighboring and distant cells. Cancer cells affect the host both at a local and systemic level. Here, members characterize how tumor-intrinsic characteristics such as production and release of secreted metabolites, immune suppressive molecules, DNA, exosomes, and expression of cell surface receptors and other proteins affect local and distant non-malignant cells and tissues, including the endogenous anti-tumor immune response. 

Aim 2: To study how conditions of the host influence tumor microenvironment, progression or response to current and novel therapies. Numerous host factors (type 2 diabetes, obesity, inflammatory disorders, age, sex, pregnancy, inherited genetic syndromes, and prior drug exposures) influence not only the development of cancer, but also the overall host response to the disease, its treatment and outcomes. Studies focus on how host variables influence cancer onset, progression, resistance and response to various therapies. 

Aim 3: To develop novel therapeutic strategies that exploit or interfere with tumor/host interactions. Through a clear understanding of the biology of cancer, the development of personalized and risk-adapted therapies that alter tumor/host interactions will be developed. These will be aimed at preventing cancer initiation or treating local progression, distant metastasis, and/or recurrence and or novel diagnostics to detect progression/recurrence. Such approaches will be developed and tested in preclinical models and those with the most promising results will be translated to the clinic via investigator-initiated trials (IITs).

Additional Information

In addition to the joint THI/DT sponsored CANCER IMMUNOTHERAPY RETREAT hosted at the CSU Flint Animal Cancer Center on Oct 23rd, here are some of the exciting opportunities/events THI will offer in the near future: 

Funds for “just missed” grants. The overall goal of these awards is to promote inter- and intra-programmatic collaborations, foster the development of new cancer-related technologies, and increase use of the Cancer Center’s Shared Resources. Eligibility and Program Requirements. Details coming your way soon. 

Grant workshops: Drs. Davila and Richer are assembling a team of senior faculty as reviewers and beginning with the junior faculty who wish to participate, applicants will choose at least one participating senior faculty and one statistician who will be responsible for a detailed review of the grant 2-3 times prior to submission and well in advance. Details forthcoming! 

THI Spring Retreat that will highlight the various types of research that THI encompasses and showcase the activities of our mentored members with the goal of fostering collaborations. ​