Areas of scientific interest
Research in human Natural Killer (NK) cell immunology and development of anti-cancer immunotherapies
Past projects: As part of tumor virology research team (German Cancer Research Center, Heidelberg, Germany) I investigated the impact of oncolytic H1-PV parvovirus infection of tumor cells on their interaction with human Natural Killer cells. We reported that besides having an intrinsic oncolytic activity, parvovirus H-1PV is able to enhance Natural Killer cell-activity in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and colon carcinoma model. Our data indicate that NK cells are endowed with anti-tumor potential against PDAC and colon carcinoma and that H-1PV-based oncolytic therapy could further boost NK cell-mediated immune responses and help to develop a combinatorial therapeutic approach against malignancies. I was also involved in the research accompanying the current human clinical trial of parvovirus H1-PV in glioma patients, specifically identifying T-cell epitope determinants of parvovirus H1-PV, in association with the group of Prof.Philipp Beckhove at NCT, Heidelberg. These data will later be used to measure anti-viral cellular immune responses in glioma patients treated with parvovirus, H1-PV. The responses observed will be included in the panel of surrogate markers of efficiency and will thus be quite essential for the final evaluation of the clinical trial. In addition, we also assessed recombinant H1-PV vectors encoding cytokines (IL-2) and chemokines (MCP-3, IP-10) in pancreatic cancer model.
Earlier, as part of Prof. Carsten Watzl lab, I investigated the dynamics of NK cell-mediated killing of tumor cells and mechanistic of co-stimulation of NK cell receptors and the resulting effect on cytotoxicity of NK cells against tumor cells.
Present project: Chimeric antigen receptor targeted oncoimmunotherapy with natural killer cells” (CAR–NK).
The major objective of this project is to develop new Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) suited for NK cell based therapies and as a first step in developing anti-cancer personalised therapy in Romania. Natural killer (NK) cells represent an attractive lymphocyte population for cancer immunotherapy due to their ability to lyse tumor targets without prior sensitization and need for human leukocyte antigen–matching, unlike T cells. Chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) represent a novel tool for development of adoptive immunotherapy by enhancing lymphocyte targeting and activation towards malignancies. The primary aim of the project is to develop NK-CARs which recognise and target specific tumor antigens and can be used in an allogenic fashion. We also propose to create the first human CAR-NKs cellular bank which can be developed and applied for further clinical trials in support of personalized medicine in Romania.