illustration showing immune cells fighting cancer cells

Cancer Biology & Immunology Research Program

The Cancer Biology & Immunology Research Program at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center aims to:

  • identify basic mechanisms that regulate cancer cell biology and the anti-tumor immune response and
  • use this knowledge to develop novel therapeutic approaches to effectively treat cancer.

The most promising discoveries are advanced to preclinical studies and moved into clinical trials. The process is an interactive one that involves close collaboration between the Cancer Biology & Immunology Program, the Developmental Cancer Therapeutics Program, and the Hollings scientific community as a whole. This is realized through a multi-level approach that integrates monthly program meetings, theme-specific journal clubs, program-specific seminars, Transdisciplinary Cancer Teams (TCTs), shared resources including the Translational Science Laboratory (TSL), Biostatistics and Flow Cytometry and Cell Sorting, and a formalized translational pipeline.

Hollings' pilot funding mechanisms support junior investigators, team-science initiatives, emerging technologies and state-of-the-art equipment, as well as targeted recruitment of faculty to enhance intra- and inter-programmatic research. National Cancer Institute and Hollings-supported training programs also support graduate and postdoctoral scholars.

The Cancer Biology & Immunology Research Program membership consists of 44 basic and clinical scientists drawn from 11 departments distributed across two colleges (College of Medicine and College of Dental Medicine). Thematically, the program's focus is on cancer epigenetics and RNA metabolism, immune cell functions that regulate tumor progression, and the role of the tumor microenvironment on inflammation.

Investigation and development of these themes focus on the following specific aims:

  • Transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation: Determine the transcriptional and post-transcriptional mechanisms that regulate cancer and immune cell functions.
  • Inflammation: Elucidate the impact of inflammation on cancer cell biology and immune cell activity.
  • Tumor Microenvironment: Define the mechanisms by which the tumor microenvironment regulates cancer and immune cell communication to drive tumor progression.

Program Co-Leaders

Philip H. Howe 

Philip H. Howe, Ph.D.

Professor and Chair of
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology
College of Medicine

Academic Focus: TGFβ and RNA proteins and their regulation of tumor progression

Shikhar Mehrotra headshot 

Shikhar Mehrotra, Ph.D.

Professor of Surgery
College of Medicine

Academic Focus: Targeting T-cell signaling and metabolic pathways to improve adoptive T-cell therapy for cancer

Dr. Sophie Paczesny in lab coat 

Sophie Paczesny, M.D., Ph.D.

Professor of Microbiology
& Immunology
College of Medicine

Academic Focus: Understanding the mechanisms that regulate anti-cancer functions of immune cells and immune tolerance

Featured Research

portrait of immunologist Silvia Guglietta in her lab at Hollings Cancer Center

Dr. Silvia Guglietta is one of five researchers across the country to be awarded an American Cancer Society Research Scholar Grant this spring for her investigations into making colon cancer vulnerable to immunotherapy.

Read about her research