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Researcher awarded NCI grant to investigate novel anti-tumor vaccine

Xiang-Yang (Shawn) Wang, Ph.D.
Xiang-Yang (Shawn) Wang, Ph.D.

Xiang-Yang (Shawn) Wang, Ph.D., was recently awarded a $310,213 grant from the National Cancer Institute to support his research involving large stress proteins (LSPs) in immune regulation and cancer immunotherapy. Wang is a VCU Massey Cancer Center Harrison Scholar, member of the VCU Institute of Molecular Medicine and associate professor of human and molecular genetics at the VCU School of Medicine.

The NCI grant will fund Wang and his team as they investigate the immunologic effects and therapeutic potential of LSPs. Specifically, they will work to determine the mechanisms that allow or prevent LSPs from presenting tumor antigens, to understand how LSPs modify immune responses by interacting with molecules associated with specific pathogens and also to evaluate the therapeutic activity of an improved vaccine utilizing LSPs loaded with tumor antigens, also known as a chaperone vaccine.

LSPs act as molecular chaperones for other proteins, assisting with a process known as protein folding as well as transportation across membranes within a cell. LSPs are produced as a response to cellular stressors ranging from heat and inflammation to invading pathogens. They are thought to be a link between the body's innate and adaptive immune systems by first responding to the initial stress and then presenting certain antigens, or molecules, on their surface for immune cells to target. Prior research from Wang's laboratory found that LSPs carrying a melanoma protein antigen demonstrated a highly potent anti-tumor immune response in animal models.

Cancer immunotherapy is a fairly young field. Using the body's own protective mechanism is attractive for several reasons, including low toxicity, a high degree of specificity and a long-lasting immunity.

Wang's research will shed light on the biological and immunological mechanisms at play in chaperone vaccines, and facilitate the development of novel immunotherapies for the treatment of cancer and other diseases.

Written by: Massey Communications Office

Posted on: June 6, 2011

Category: Center news & funding