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March 1, 2017
Stefani Spranger's passion for cancer immunology ignited during her time as a masters student in Germany, with an assignment to summarize and discuss two clinical trial studies involving immunotherapy. The first study isolated T-cells from patients' tumors, grew them in vitro, and reinfused the cells back into the body. The second used peripheral blood lymphocytes engineered to express a T-cell receptor specific for an antigen expressed by tumor cells. In the end, both studies showed evidence for an anti-tumor immune response and increased patient survival.
"Reading these studies initiated my fascination that one could use the patient's own immune system to recognize and eliminate cancer," Spranger recalls.
Spranger will bring this excitement to the MIT community as she joins the Department of Biology faculty as an assistant professor. Her laboratory, located in MIT's Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, will explore how a range of tumor cell-intrinsic, tissue-specific, and environmental factors directly impact the interaction between cancer and the immune system. Spranger and her colleagues have their sights particularly set on developing new and effective treatment strategies that activate the immune system to fight cancer.
“We are delighted to have Stefani join us at the Koch Institute and the Department of Biology" said KI director Tyler Jacks, a David H. Koch Professor of Biology. “Based on her accomplishments to date and her exciting research plans, I am confident that her work will provide new strategies to stimulate immune responses in cancer patients, an area of great interest in the KI and in cancer research more generally.”
Spranger received her BS and MS from the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich. There, she continued her doctoral work under Dolores J. Schendel at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Munich, Institute for Molecular Immunology and received her PhD in 2011. She completed her postdoctoral training at the University of Chicago in the laboratory of Professor Thomas F. Gajewski, whose focus is on investigating and developing immune-based therapies for melanoma.
"I am thrilled to join the Koch Institute and MIT's Biology Department," says Spranger. "Being in an environment of outstanding scientists, engineers, and cancer researchers will allow me to learn more about the interplay between tumors and the immune system."