Dr. Oren Parnas
The interactions between the immune system and cancer.
The Parnas lab goal is to explore the effect of suppressive signals on innate immune cells, especially dendritic cells. We focus on suppressive signals that produced by cancer. Cancer escapes the immune system using several strategies including the production of signals that suppress the ability of the immune system to respond to danger. We explore:
(1) Which suppressive signals produce by cancer? At which stage during the development of the disease, and how they affect the immune cells.
(2) Which key genes, that expressed by immune cells, sense and transfer the suppressive signals and therefore can be targeted to block the effect of the suppressive signals.
We are using advanced genetics and genomics methods, to characterize the interactions between the immune cells and the malignant cells in ovarian cancer mouse model. It includes single cell RNA-Seq technics that enables to monitor cell type and cell state in an unbiased way and genome wide CRISPR-CAS9 screens that are useful in order to find new genes that play a role in immune regulation. We hypothesize that targeting those genes can reverse the dysfunction phenotype of the immune system in advance cancer and restore the immune system ability to fight cancer. We have already found several new genes that play a role in immune suppression and we are investigating their regulation and exploring their molecular mechanism.
In addition, we investigate the biology of herpes viruses, especially Kaposi sarcoma herpes virus that can cause skin cancer. Herpes viruses establish life-long latency in humans and cause the disease upon activation from a latent state to lytic state. We aim to find new genes that play a role in latency establishment, maintenance of latency, reactivation and lytic infection.