Lymphatic transport in immunity
Immune dysfunction underlies the pathogenesis of a multitude of human diseases and tissue fluid imbalance commonly accompanies disease-associated inflammation, implicating an underlying vascular involvement. While the lymphatic vasculature is historically overlooked as a passive conduit system, fluid drainage mediated by lymphatics facilitates the transport of cells and biomolecules from peripheral tissues to draining lymph nodes and into the systemic circulation. We have demonstrated a crucial role for lymphatic-mediated transport in the fine-tuning of humoral immunity and immune tolerance, providing insight into how fluid homeostasis regulates local tissue immune status. This suggests that lymphatic-mediated fluid, molecular and cellular transport processes might be exploited in immunotherapy applications.
Cancer progression is tightly linked to the ability of malignant cells to exploit the immune system to promote survival. Insight into immune function can therefore be gained from understanding how tumors exploit immunity. Conversely, this interplay makes the concept of harnessing the immune system to combat cancer an intriguing approach. We are applying principles from immunotherapy to treat malignant disease using unique biomaterials engineering principles based on novel fluid convection-mediated biotransport phenomenon.
Anti-metastasis therapeutic interventions
Although cancer patients rarely die from primary tumors and succumb instead to metastatic disease, few if any therapeutic strategies have been developed for and specifically target metastatic disease. We are taking an alternative approach, focusing exclusively on the design, development and validation of next generation immunotherapies that exploit the unique immunobiology of metastatic cells by 1) developing material systems to deliver immunotherapeutic agents to immune cells, lymphoid tissues and tissues prone to metastatic colonization as well as 2) incorporating our expertise in the mechanobiology of metastasis for novel design criteria to target metastatic cells using immunotherapeutics.