Edgar Engleman, MD, medical director of the Stanford Blood Center, discusses his research involving the use of a special type of white blood cell as a treatment for cancer. Engleman, who is also a professor of pathology at the Stanford School of Medicine, and his team of researchers have been interested in dendritic cells, or DCs, which can provoke an immune response in the body.
The goal of this laboratory is to better understand dendritic cell biology with the objective of using this information to discover and develop more effective immunotherapeutic approaches to disease. We pursue this goal by performing experiments in both mice and humans. In our initial clinical studies antigen pulsed dendritic cells were administered to patients with cancer or life-threatening viral infections in order to induce specific immunity. The results of these trials have been extremely encouraging. More recently we have focused our studies on the development and life cycle of dendritic cells, including Langerhans cells, and the results have not only shed new light on dendritic cell biology but also have led to our ability to target dendritic cells in vivo without having to manipulate these cells in vitro. We believe that this new approach will eventually make it possible to downregulate as well as upregulate the immune system in an antigen specific manner.