Dr. Xiao’s Lab Awarded a Faculty Student Research Award Grant

Image Credit: Edwin Remsberg

February 24, 2022 Jonathan Stephanoff

Dr. Zhengguo Xiao has been awarded a University of Maryland Graduate School grant for his cancer research as part of the 2022-2023 Faculty Student Research Awards. Dr. Xiao’s graduate student, Akanksha Hada will be assisting on the project to create more effective immunotherapy treatments to combat tumor cells.

Dr. Xiao’s research builds on previous discoveries in the Xiao lab, focused on utilizing a specific type of immune cells (CD8+ T cells) using mouse models. CD8+ T cells can infiltrate and kill tumor cells, but the microenvironment around a tumor often mitigates the immune system’s T cell effectiveness. Tumors grow from within the body, so the binding between CD8+ T cells and tumor cells is weak compared to strong bindings with external pathogens.

Earlier research in Dr. Xiao’s lab has identified and produced a specific compound released by cells, or exosome, that has the potential to enhance the activation of CD8+ T cells that are more effective at killing tumor cells. The FSRA grant will help fund the first step in this research, which is to test if these exosomes can boost the tumor-killing function of CD8+ T cells by injecting the ‘reprogramming’ exosome directly into tumors. Dr. Xiao’s lab is working on an NIH research grant to fund future research.

Knowledge from this project can open new avenues for cancer research and future treatments. Dr. Xiao envisions a future that could include new immunotherapy treatments with off-the-shelf exosomes that enhance the body’s tumor-killing ability.