Portrait of  Stephanie Schlichtner

Stephanie Schlichtner

Research Student

About

Research topic: Fundamental immunosuppressive pathway determining ability of cancer and embryonic cells to escape cytotoxic immune attack

Qualifications: 

BSc Molecular Biology - University Salzburg, MSc Medical Biology Universiy Salzburg

Scholarships: 

University of Kent Vice Chancellor's Research Scholarship

Research interests

It has recently been discovered that blood cancer cells possess a unique molecular pathway that allows these cells to escape anti-cancer immunity (Gonçalves Silva et al. EBioMedicine 2017; Yasinska et al. Nanoscale 2018; Sakhnevych et al. Cell Mol Immunol 2018). Thus, the patient’s immune system becomes unable to kill malignant cells leading to disease progression. This pathway leads to secretion of the protein called galectin-9 that disables human cytotoxic lymphoid cells, which are naturally capable of attacking/killing cancer cells. Further experiments demonstrated that this pathway is also active in various solid tumour cells. 

My PhD programme focuses on understanding molecular mechanisms underlying the regulation of this immunosuppressive pathway in order to be able to correct it pharmacologically. Firstly, we are performing comparative investigation of Biochemistry of the galectin-9 producing pathway in human embryonic and malignant cells.  It is known, that human body treats the embryo in a similar way to the tumour in the first stage of pregnancy. It is, thus, important that rejection of an embryo by mother’s immune system is avoided. We are therefore investigating the fundamentality and molecular mechanisms underlying regulation of galectin-9-dependent immunosuppressive pathway in order to understand its functional role in development and malignant transformation. Secondly, we are looking to identify specific components of this pathway, to be used as therapeutic targets for anti-cancer immunotherapy and prevention of miscarriage. 

This project is a part of a collaborative interdisciplinary research programme focusing on understanding the molecular mechanisms underlying capability of human cancer cells to escape host immune surveillance. The consortium includes collaborators from the Department of Paediatric Surgery, University Hospital Bern (Inselspital), Switzerland, Diamond Light Source, Didcot, UK, Division of Experimental Allergology and Immunodermatology, University of Oldenburg, Oldenburg, Germany, Institute for Research in Biomedicine, Universita' della Svizzera italiana (USI), Bellinzona, Switzerland and Department of Oncology, Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplantation with Section Pneumology, University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany.

Supervision

Supervisors: Dr Vadim Sumbayev and Dr Yuri Ushkaryov

Research Group: Biological Sciences