Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Microbiology & Immunology

First Advisor

Masoud Manjili

Second Advisor

Kathleen McCoy

Third Advisor

Shirley Taylor

Fourth Advisor

Amir Toor

Fifth Advisor

Xiang-Yang Wang


Immunotherapy of cancer has been shown to be promising in prolonging patient survival. However, complete elimination of cancer and life-long relapse-free survival remain to be major challenge for anti-cancer therapeutics. We have previously reported that ex vivo reprogramming of tumor-sensitized immune cells by bryostatin 1/ionomycin (B/I) and the gamma-chain (γ-c) cytokines IL-2, IL-7, and IL-15 resulted in the generation of memory T cells as well as CD25+ NKT cells and CD25+ NK cells. Adoptive cellular therapy (ACT) utilizing these reprogrammed immune cells protected FVBN202 mice from tumor challenge, and overcame the suppressive functions of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). We then demonstrated that the presence of CD25+ NKT cells was required for anti-tumor efficacy of T cells as well as their resistance to MDSCs. Similar results were obtained by reprogramming of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from patients with early stage breast cancer, demonstrating that an increased frequency of CD25+ NKT cells in reprogrammed immune cells was associated with modulation of MDSCs to CD11b-HLA-DR+ immune stimulatory cells. Here, we tested the efficacy of immunotherapy in a therapeutic setting against established primary breast cancer (Chapter One), experimental metastatic breast cancer (Chapter Three) as well as against minimal residual disease (MRD) in patients with multiple myeloma (Chapter Two). We evaluated the ability of reprogrammed immune cells, including CD25+ NKT cells, to convert MDSCs to myeloid immune stimulatory cells, in vivo; this resulted in the identification and characterization of a novel antigen presenting cell (APC). These novel immune stimulatory cells differed from conventional APCs, including dendritic cells (DCs) and macrophages. We have also demonstrated that enhancing immunogenicity of mammary tumors by treatment with Decitabine (Dec) along with overcoming MDSCs by utilizing reprogrammed T cells and NKT cells in ACT prolongs survival of animals, but fails to eliminate the tumor. However, targeting cancer during a setting of MDR, when tumor cells are dormant, results in objective responses as evidenced in our multiple myeloma studies. This suggests that targeting breast cancer with immunotherapy following conventional therapies, in a setting of residual disease when tumor cells are dormant, may be effective in eliminating such residual cells or maintaining dormancy and extending time-to-relapse for breast cancer patients.


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