New roles for the FoxP3 molecule in regulating the immune response and controlling anti-cancer immunity

Lead researcher

Dr Lisa Ebert, A/Prof Weisan Chen, Prof Jonathan Cebon

Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research

Years funded

This project analyses the way the immune system interacts with melanoma cells and may identify new targets for a melanoma vaccine.

The immune system has numerous ways of detecting and eliminating tumours. One of these is by recognising unique molecules known as antigens on the surface of tumour cells. These antigens mark tumour cells as a target for killer T cells, an important subset of immune cells which specialises in killing infected or cancerous cells.

We have recently discovered a novel antigen expressed by melanoma tumour cells, which we have named FoxP3Δ3,4.

The main aim of this one-year project was to analyse whether killer T cells from melanoma patients can recognise FoxP3Δ3,4 and use it to target melanoma cells for destruction. Our results thus far indicate that they can, and we have also begun to analyse the interaction between killer T cells and the FoxP3Δ3,4 molecule in more detail.

Cancer vaccines represent a novel approach to cancer treatment, which involves immunising cancer patients with a tumour antigen. This mobilises the patient's own killer T cells to attack their tumour. Our findings suggest that FoxP3Δ3,4 may be a novel target antigen for such an approach.