Macrophage cells play an important role in the immune system by finding and killing invaders, but breast tumors can reprogram them to support tumor growth and metastasis.
Masonic Scholar Tanya Freedman, Ph.D., is studying the regulation of immune cells within tumors in hopes of eventually improving the prognosis for breast cancer patients.
“We are studying a protein kinase signaling cascade that has the potential to turn pro-tumor macrophages into tumor-fighting cells,” explains Freedman, part of the U’s pharmacology faculty.
“Our recent studies have uncovered a regulatory mechanism that could control this transition. We are now testing whether altering the function of a specific kinase enzyme, the proto-oncogene LynA, can slow or reverse breast tumor growth. Our goal is to develop a therapy that stimulates these innate immune cells in combination with therapies that target the tumors themselves.”
Freedman and her team are in the discovery phase of their research, learning how LynA signaling is regulated in the tumor environment and testing different ways of altering its function.
“As an early-career investigator, support from Minnesota Masonic Charities has been exceptionally helpful in kick-starting my career, allowing me to test innovative new ideas and generate preliminary data to support federal grant applications. In research, we never know where the next big idea will come from, and I am grateful to the Masonic Cancer Center for supporting both basic and translational research, both indispensable elements in our efforts to cure cancer.”