null RI-MUHC trainee awarded 2022 Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship
Joan Miguel Romero is investigating T cell−inflammation in pancreatic cancer
MD-PhD candidate Joan Miguel Romero will receive Canada’s most prestigious graduate award at the doctoral level in 2022. A trainee in the Cancer Research Program at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and student in experimental medicine at McGill University, his research is supervised by Dr. George Zogopoulos, a hepatopancreaticobiliary surgeon and expert on pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer is the third leading cause of cancer deaths, with less than 10% of patients surviving this cancer longer than five years. An important reason for this lethality is that pancreatic cancer does not respond well to chemotherapies and immunotherapies. For treatments like immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICIs) to work, cancers need many immune cells called CD8+ T cells within the tumour, a phenomenon called T cell−inflammation, as Romero explains. Chemokines may be responsible for this infiltration. However, the drivers initiating chemokine expression remain unclear.
Romero’s winning project, titled “Evaluating a chemokine signature as a predictive biomarker for T cell-inflamed cancer subtypes,” hypothesizes that pancreatic cancers with T cell-inflammation have specific genetic mutations and phenotypes making them more likely to respond to ICIs.
“My doctoral work focuses on identifying the subtypes that may respond to immunotherapies, particularly a specific subgroup known as homologous recombination repair deficient,” says Romero. “To investigate this, I will use bioinformatic approaches using next-generation sequencing data from patients and preclinical trials using mouse models developed in the laboratory. Understanding how T cell-inflammation occurs in pancreatic cancer will help physicians identify which patients should be treated with immunotherapies to improve outcomes.”
May 13, 2022