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Gabriel Rodriguez Garcia

Department: Molecular Pathology & Immunology

Faculty Mentor: Young Kim, M.D., Ph.D

Dissertation DescriptionCharacterizing NK Cells from HNSCC to Develop and Improve Cancer Immunotherapies

The non-classical MHC class I molecule HLA-E has been shown to be commonly overexpressed in Head & Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC) patients. HLA-E is the ligand for the inhibitory receptor NKG2A, expressed by Natural Killer cells and T cells. We hypothesize that checkpoint blockade against this inhibitory receptor will stimulate Natural Killer cell cytotoxicity against HNSCC with high expression of this inhibitory ligand. In addition, I’ll be comparing the expression of activating and inhibitory receptors on Natural Killer cells from healthy individuals and HNSCC patients. Understanding how the head and neck tumor microenvironment affects Natural Killer cells will allow us to develop and improve cancer immunotherapies for this patients.