Graham Cancer Center physician-scientists collaborate on landmark study

Researchers from the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute co-authored a groundbreaking study of immune responses in cancer cells published online in Nature, April 2019.

The study, led by Christiana Care’s cancer research partner The Wistar Institute, identified a critical regulator of the function of myeloid-derived suppressive cells (MDSCs). MSDCs are bone marrow-derived cells that become pathologically activated in cancer patients and inhibit the body’s antitumor immune response.

Neil Hockstein, M.D.

MSDCs are associated with poor prognosis and resistance to immunotherapy. The mechanisms responsible for conversion of these cells into immune suppressive cells are not well defined. But by identifying the critical regulator, new opportunities should emerge for specific therapeutic targeting of these cells to inhibit tumor growth and enhance the anticancer activity of other immunotherapies.


Gregory Masters, M.D.

“MDSCs have emerged as fundamental players in the fight of our immune system against cancer and the success of certain therapies,” said senior author Dmitry I. Gabrilovich, M.D., Ph.D., the Christopher M. Davis Professor and program leader of the Immunology, Microenvironment and Metastasis Program at Wistar.

Michael Guarino, M.D.

“We need to better define how these cells work and what pathways are important, so that we can devise strategies to keep them at bay. Our study represents an important step forward in that direction.”

Coauthors from the Graham Cancer Center included Charles Mulligan Jr., M.D., chief of Thoracic Surgery; thoracic surgeon Brian Nam, M.D.; head and neck surgeon Neil Hockstein, M.D.; and medical oncologists Michael Guarino M.D., and Gregory A. Masters, M.D., along with researchers from Wistar, the University of Pittsburgh, Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania.