Email: [email protected]

Fellowship dates: 2023-present
Mentor: Vaiva Vezys 
Research Emphasis/Publications: "Understanding mechanisms of peripheral immune tolerance in autoimmunity" Full list of Publications

Program: Microbiology, Immunology, and Cancer Biology Graduate Student
Year Entered: 2018
Thesis Advisor: Ingunn Stromnes (lab website)
Defense Year: 2023
Dissertation Title: "Revolutionizing T cell Therapy for Pancreatic Cancer: Harnessing the Power of T cell Receptor Exchange Mice"

Graduate Research: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is currently the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the U.S. PDA commonly presents with advanced unresectable disease. The robust desmoplastic microenvironment and compromised perfusion contribute to drug resistance. Immunotherapies have become a major success in the treatment of cancer but unlike other solid tumors, immune checkpoint blockade monotherapies have largely failed in PDA. Previous work by Dr. Stromnes and colleagues established that an adoptive cell therapy with T cells engineered to express T cell receptor specific to the overexpressed self/tumor antigen, mesothelin (TCR Msln ) is safe and prolongs survival in a genetically engineered PDA mouse model. Engineered TCR Msln T cells preferentially accumulate in PDA, induce tumor cell death, and alter the dense stromal microenvironment. However, over time, engineered T cells progressively become dysfunctional requiring serial T cell infusions for efficacy. Understanding the mechanisms underlying engineered T cell dysfunction and how we can circumvent this dysfunction is the focus of my research. I hypothesize that a combination of chronic TCR signaling and tumor microenvironment (TME) in pancreatic cancer interferes with engineered T cell anti-tumor activity. To begin to address this question, my studies will incorporate a novel mesothelin TCR knock-in mouse we recently created as tool to probe how to modify the TME and the T cell for more durable responses with cell-based therapies.

Degrees received: 
PhD, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, 2023
BS, University of Minnesota-Morris, 2017

Meagan Rollins