Henry Ford Health + Michigan State University Health Sciences Awarded its First R01 Research Grant from National Cancer Institute

October 23, 2023

In a significant step forward for cancer research, Henry Ford Health + Michigan State University Health Sciences has been awarded its first National Cancer Institute (NCI) R01 research grant totaling $3,135,537. This funding, scheduled to span from 2023 to 2028, underscores the partnership's dedication to pioneering advancements in cancer research and treatment.

The groundbreaking project, titled "VPS72 Controls Treg Cell Stability and Adaptation to Tumor Microenvironment," will delve into the intricate ways in which the tumor environment affects the stability of regulatory T cells, also known as Treg cells, which are immune cells known to suppress unwanted immune responses. The study aims to pinpoint a potential target for immunotherapy against an array of cancer types, such as brain, liver, colon, lung, and melanoma.

"The immune suppressive niche inside the tumor microenvironment accounts for tumor immune escape and progression, in which the Treg cells play an important role. This funding will help us to better understand how the body's immune response interacts with different cancer types,” said Qing-Sheng Mi, M.D., Ph.D., Henry Lim-endowed Chair for Dermatology Research, Director of the Center for Cutaneous Biology and Immunology and Vice Chair for Research, Dept. of Dermatology at Henry Ford Health, and Professor, Dept. of Medicine, Michigan State University. “Results from the proposed study will not only enhance our understanding of Treg cell biology but also has the potential to solidify the development of more efficient Treg-based intervention strategies for cancer treatment.” Dr. Mi is also Director of Immunology Research Program at Henry Ford Cancer.

Advancing cancer care through innovative research has been a key focus of the Henry Ford + MSU partnership since its inception. With the support of this prestigious R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health, Henry Ford + MSU researchers are emboldened to pursue breakthroughs that could significantly change cancer care.

"Our research at Henry Ford Health + Michigan State University Health Sciences is aimed at pushing the boundaries of scientific understanding,” Li Zhou, M.D., Associate Scientist in the Center for Cutaneous Biology and Immunology at Henry Ford Health and Associate Professor, Dept. of Medicine, Michigan State University. “With the support of this funding, we aim to uncover why Treg cells become more suppressive in the tumor microenvironment, which could lead to further discoveries that could revolutionize the landscape of cancer immunotherapy."

“Tumor cells are smart. They take the immuno-suppressive Treg cells and use them to suppress anti-tumor responses,” Deyu Fang, Ph.D., Professor of Pathology at Northwestern University, who is also a co-principal investigator in this study. “We are hopeful we can unveil new paths to potentially lifesaving treatments for patients battling various cancer types.”

For those who have been touched by cancer, this research translates to hope. As cancer continues to affect millions worldwide, understanding how the body's natural defense mechanisms can be harnessed and optimized could prove to be a gamechanger in cancer treatment. The partnership’s research efforts, with studies like this one and more, will be bolstered by the construction of a new, state-of-the-art Henry Ford + MSU Research Center in Detroit. Part of the Future of Health project, this facility will be home to multiple shared research efforts.

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