Cancer Center

The Cancer Research Center (CRC) focuses on understanding the cellular and molecular basis of cancer initiation and progression with a focus on breast cancer, which is the most common cancer among females globally. Breast cancer prevalence in the Arab region is mostly similar to those in the rest of the world. However, some studies have suggested that Arab women may experience a more aggressive form of breast cancer.

Many cancer patients develop progressive diseases following conventional treatments and therefore more effective therapies are needed. Activating the immune system for therapeutic benefits has long been a strategic goal for immunologists and oncologists. Different specific-immunotherapeutic modalities, including cancer vaccines and adoptive transfer (antibody or cell), have been developed and examined in different phases of clinical trials. After decades of disappointment, the success of recent clinical trials, especially using Immune Checkpoint Inhibitors and genetically-modified T cells, placed immunotherapy as the breakthrough of the year for 2013 by the journal of “Science”. Although some immunotherapies induced impressive responses, unfortunately these have been achieved only in a minority of patients. This could be partially explained by the fact that tumors generate highly potent immunosuppressive microenvironment to avoid immune destruction.

Research Interests:

The major focus of the Cancer Research Center is cancer immunology and immunotherapy. More specifically, our research groups are interested in studying the tumor microenvironment and investigating mechanisms utilized by tumor cells to evade immune-mediated destruction. Our specific interests are focused on the role and function of immunosuppressive cells [T regulatory cells (Tregs), myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs), and tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs)]. Additionally, we are interested in developing therapeutic approaches against breast cancers by using NK cells, T cells, and genetically modified immune cells. Another major focus of the center is to contribute towards understanding the genetic and epigenetic events leading to tumorigenesis.

To achieve these broad objectives, the Cancer Research Center uses combinations of biochemistry; imaging; proteomic; high throughput genomics; flow cytometry and cell sorting; and bioinformatic technologies as integrative approaches.