Assistant Professor of Biology
Ph.D. 2011, Ludwig-Maximilian University Munich/ Helmholtz-Zentrum Munich (Germany)
“Our laboratory is interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying the interaction between cancer and cells of the immune system. By using tumor mouse models, designed to mimic tumor progression in humans, the primary goal is to understand the co-evolution of the anti-tumor immune response and cancer. Understanding the interplay between tumor and immune cells will help to develop and improve effective immunotherapies against cancer.”
Stefani Spranger is an Assistant Professor of Biology at MIT. She received her B.S./ M.S. from the Ludwig-Maximilian University in Munich and continued her doctoral work there under Professor Dolores J. Schendel at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Munich, Institute for Molecular Immunology, receiving her Ph.D. in 2011. She completed her postdoctoral training at the University of Chicago in the laboratory of Professor Thomas F. Gajewski. During this period she was supported by the German Research Foundation postdoctoral fellowship and subsequently received the Irvington postdoctoral fellowship awarded by the Cancer Research Institute. Recently, Stefani joined the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and the Department of Biology at MIT. She is a scholar of the Forbeck Foundation.
The goal of the Spranger lab is to understand the molecular mechanisms of a range of tumor cell-intrinsic, tissue-specific or environmental factors directly impacting the interaction between cancer and the immune system. Understanding which permutations affect the anti-tumor immune response will answer thus far unanswered questions on the interplay between the immune system with the tumor and will facilitate the development of new rational therapeutic approaches.
Over the last decade cancer immunotherapies, first and foremost checkpoint blockade therapy (anti-CTLA4 and anti-PD-1/PD-L1) has revolutionized cancer treatment. Despite the recent advances it should be noted that only a fraction of cancer patients responds towards immunotherapeutic interventions. Even for cancer types with a high response rate, only a fraction of patients are responding. The presence of CD8+ T cells, so-called cytolytic T cells, within the tumor microenvironment, is known to be the discriminating factor for the response towards checkpoint blockade. Most cancer types can be subdivided into T cell-inflamed and non-T cell-inflamed groups, based on the presence of CD8+ T cells.
Thus far our knowledge on factors contributing to the exclusion of immune cells is limited. Studies in melanoma have provided insights that tumor cell-intrinsic activation of certain signaling pathways, WNT/β-catenin and PI3K, are linked to the loss of T cell infiltration. Specifically, activation of β-catenin results in a local reduction of a dendritic cell subset specialized in the activation of CD8+ T cells. Furthermore, depletion of only this subset of dendritic cells renders the previously T cell-inflamed into a non-T cell-inflamed tumor microenvironment, illustrating the complexity of the tumor microenvironment.
The Spranger lab aims to understand what additional factors contribute to T cell exclusion from the tumor microenvironment, including tumor cell-intrinsic, tissue-macroenvironmental or environmental factors (e.g. infections). The lab focuses on lung cancer and pancreatic cancer, representing immunotherapy-sensitive and resistant cancer types, respectively.
By understanding the factors contributing to a productive or malfunctioning anti-tumor immune response, factor determining the presence or absence of anti-tumor immune cells from the tumor microenvironment, will guide us in improving existing immunotherapeutic therapies or develop novel combination therapies.
1. Density of immunogenic antigens does not explain the presence or absence of the T cell-inflamed tumor microenvironment in melanoma. Spranger S*, Luke JJ*, Bao R, Zha Y, Hernandez K, Li Y, Gajewski AP, Andrade J, Gajewski TF. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016 published ahead of print November 7, 2016
2. Molecular Drivers of the Non-T Cell-Inflamed Tumor Microenvironment in Urothelial Bladder Cancer. Sweis RF, Spranger S, Bao R, Paner GP, Stadler WM, Steinberg GD, Gajewski TF. Cancer Immunol Res. 2016 Jul;4(7):563-8. doi: 10.1158/2326-6066.CIR-15-0274. PubMed PMID: 27197067; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4943758.
3. Engineering Active IKKβ in T Cells Drives Tumor Rejection. Evaristo C, Spranger S, Barnes SE, Miller ML, Molinero LL, Locke FL, Gajewski TF, Alegre ML. J Immunol. 2016 Apr 1;196(7):2933-8. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1501144. PubMed PMID: 26903482; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4799771.
4. Loss of PTEN promotes resistance to T cell-mediated immunotherapy. Peng W, Chen JQ, Liu C, Malu S, Creasy C, Tetzlaff MT, Xu C, McKenzie JA, Zhang C, Liang X, Williams LJ, Deng W, Chen G, Mbofung R, Lazar AJ, Torres Cabala CA, Cooper ZA, Chen PL, Tieu TN, Spranger S, Yu X, Bernatchez C, Forget MA, Haymaker C, Amaria R, McQuade JL, Glitza IC, Cascone T, Li H, Kwong LN, Heffernan TP, Hu J, Bassett RL Jr, Bosenberg MW, Woodman SE, Overwijk WW, Lizee G, Roszik J, Gajewski TF, Wargo JA, Gershenwald JE, Radvanyi LG, Davies MA, Hwu P, Cancer Discov. 2015 Dec 8.
5. Melanoma-intrinsic β-catenin signalling prevents anti-tumour immunity. Spranger S, Bao R, and Gajewski TF, Nature. 2015 Jul 9;523(7559):231-5. doi: 10.1038/nature14404. Epub 2015 May 11.
6. STING-Dependent Cytosolic DNA Sensing Mediates Innate Immune Recognition of Immunogenic Tumors. Woo SR, Fuertes MB, Corrales L, Spranger S, Furdyna MJ, Leung M, Duggan R, Wang Y, Barber GN, Fitzgerald KA, Alegre M, Gajewski TF, Immunity. 2014 Nov 20;41(5):830-42. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2014.10.017. Epub 2014 Nov 5.
7. Mechanism of tumor rejection with doublets of CTLA-4, PD-1/PD-L1, or IDO blockade involves restored IL-2 production and proliferation of CD8+ T cells directly within the tumor microenvironment. Spranger S, Koblish H, Horton B, Scherle P, Newton R, Gajewski TF, J Immunother Cancer. 2014 Feb 18;2:3. doi: 10.1186/2051-1426-2-3. eCollection 2014.
8. Up-Regulation of PD-L1, IDO, and Tregs in the Melanoma Tumor Microenvironment Is Driven by CD8+ T Cells. Spranger S*, Spaapen RM*, Zha Y, Williams J, Meng Y, Ha TT, Gajewski TF, Sci Transl Med. 2013 Aug 28;5(200):200ra116. doi: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006504.
9. T cell receptor-transgenic lymphocytes specific for HMMR/Rhamm limit tumor outgrowth in vivo. Spranger S, Jeremias I, Wilde S, Leisegang M, Stärk L, Mosetter B, Uckert W, Heemskerk MH, Schendel DJ and Frankenberger B, Blood. 2012 Apr 12;119(15):3440-9. doi: 10.1182/blood-2011-06-357939. Epub 2012 Feb 27.
10. Generation of Th1-polarizing dendritic cells using the TLR7/8 agonist CL075. Spranger S, Javorovic M, Bürdek M, Wilde S, Mosetter B, Tippmer S, Bigalke I, Geiger C, Schendel DJ, Frankenberger B, J Immunol. 2010 Jul 1;185(1):738-47. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.1000060. Epub 2010 May 28.
* authors contributed equally