It has recently become clear that carcinogenesis and cancer progression involves dysregulation of immune
cells within the tumor microenvironment. The particular interest of this proposal are how tumor cells develop
tactics to manipulate immune cells to facilitate cancer progression, and how chronic inflammation induced
immunosuppression accelerates carcinogenesis. Dr. Wettersten recently published that tumor cell expression of
a cell adhesion receptor, integrin avß3, is associated with the enrichment of tumor-associated macrophages
(TAMs), which are known to promote immune suppression and prevent the influx of cytotoxic T cells. Her new
preliminary studies reveal that avß3 expression on lung cancer cells is sufficient to recruit TAMs and that
inflammatory mediators can induce avß3 expression both on normal lung epithelium as well as lung cancer cells.
Together, these findings suggest inflammation can induce tumor cell expression of avß3, which in turn leads to
TAM accumulation, immune suppression, and tumor progression. Furthermore, inflammation induced avß3
expression on lung epithelium may contribute to the well-known relationship between inflammation and cancer.
The overall goals of this study are to understand how avß3+ cancer cells promote a pro-
tumor/immunosuppressive microenvironment during cancer progression and how avß3 expression on normal
lung epithelium induces inflammation-mediated carcinogenesis. Aim 1 will determine if TAM enrichment factors
from avß3+ cancer cells promote an immunosuppressive microenvironment. The goal of Aim 2 is to target
integrin avß3+ cancer cells to shift the tumor immune profile from pro-tumor to anti-tumor. Aim 3 will assess if
inflammation-induced expression of integrin avß3 on lung epithelial cells accelerates carcinogenesis. To achieve
these aims, the expression of avß3 will be genetically modified in immunocompetent mouse models of lung
cancer and inflammation to reveal how avß3+ cells exploit the immune system to enable cancer development
and progression. Understanding this process will lead to the development of novel therapeutic strategies to
strengthen the anti-tumor immune response.
Dr. Wettersten’s career goal is to become an independent investigator in an academic setting. She will leverage
her dual training as a veterinarian and cancer biologist to generate new therapeutic approaches targeting the
communication between the tumor microenvironment and cancer cells. While her project is strongly supported
by her recent findings with Dr. Cheresh, exploring the impact of avß3+ cancer cells in the tumor
microenvironment is distinct from Dr. Cheresh’s existing work, and the novel mouse models established in this
study will provide a foundation for her to further investigate the cancer cell-microenvironment interaction. Dr.
Cheresh and her other collaborators at UCSD will give her access to world-class facilities, equipment, and animal
models, providing her with an ideal environment to accomplish the proposed work and launch her career as an