Two new papers by Fotini Gounari, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, provide insight into how colorectal cancer rewires regulatory T cells, or Treg cells, to promote tumor growth. In that setting, Treg cells switch from suppressing to promoting inflammation, fueling tumor growth and protecting tumors from attack by T cells.

The papers appeared in Nature Immunology in April and August. The research, a collaboration among Gounari, Khashayarsha Khazaie, PhD from Mayo Clinic and Majid Kazemian, PhD, from Purdue, identified key molecules that direct these changes in regulatory T cell functions in colorectal cancer. This knowledge opens a new window to understand how cancer compromises immunity to its advantage, paving the path to better-targeted cancer prevention and treatment.

“I’m interested in understanding why Treg cells are so complex and what each subset does in the normal healthy environment. To understand how things work, you have to tweak them and see what changes,” Gounari said. “It is becoming clear that we can look into the complex molecular pathways and find identifiers that help us understand how normal things work.”

Adapted from a story originally published by Mayo Clinic. Image created with BioRender.

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