There have been only small, incremental increases in survival for Glioblastoma (GBM) patients over the past 3 decades. Immunotherapy has revolutionized treatment for some tumors and, although not as successful in GBM, there have been encouraging responses in a subset of patients. There is a critical need for biomarkers that identify those patients responsive to specific immunotherapies. We have developed a method to probe the immune environment using RNAseq of bulk tumor tissue. Using this method we have shown that there are 7 immune subtypes with distinct clinical outcomes, molecular features, infiltration of immune cell types and expression of genes involved in immunosuppression mechanisms. Our in silico analysis suggests that one subtype suppresses the immune system by downregulating machinery necessary for Tcells and Natural Killer Cells to recognize and attack the tumor. It identifies therapeutics that may block this immunosuppression. Our results indicate that this approach can identify physiologically relevant immune subtypes, investigate tumor immunosuppression mechanisms and predict which immunotherapy will be effective for a GBM patient.
We will also discuss development of our brain organoid model of brain tumors for testing brain penetrant, anti-cancer therapeutics and identifying novel targets in the tumor microenvironment.
Dr. Anna Joy received her Ph.D. in Chemistry from Arizona State University. During her postdoctoral fellowship at Barrow Neurological Institute she studied the molecular features and pathobiology of brain tumors and continued these studies at as Associate Scientist at Barrow Neurological Institute and the Translational Genomics Research Institute. She joined the Center for Computational Systems Biology at Prairie View at the end of 2018.