The role of SHIP in the development and function of myeloid immune suppressor cells

An important role of the immune system is to identify and eliminate tumour cells. When a tumour first forms, the immune system recognizes it as foreign and generates specialized T cells to attack and kill it. However, tumours have evolved a number of mechanisms that prevent the immune system from being able to function properly, resulting in cancer progression. One of the mechanisms by which tumours escape from the immune system is by secreting chemicals that promote the generation of cells that inhibit T cells from carrying out their normal functions. The presence of these suppressive cells is one of the most common reasons current cancer therapies fail. Melisa Hamilton is investigating a specific subset of these suppressive cells, called myeloid immune suppressor cells (MISCs). Previous research has shown that the protein known as SHIP is important in regulating the survival and proliferation of myeloid cells (white blood cells). Hamilton’s research is focused on investigating the specific role SHIP plays in MISC development and function. With a better understanding of how tumours stimulate the development of MISCs and how these cells suppress the immune system, researchers can design targeted therapies to prevent the formation and function of MISCs. These therapies would greatly increase the ability of the immune system to attack and eradicate tumours and would be especially effective in combination with current cancer immunotherapy treatments to improve cancer patient outcomes.