Greek “signature” in the fight against cancer
Anna-Maria Georgoudaki is a promising Researcher in the field of Biomedicine, trying to find new methods to improve the immune system for better cancer prevention.
Anna-Maria comes from the greek island of Kos. She is currently a post doc Researcher at the Rockefeller University since January 2016. In the beginning of her career, she attended the class of Biology for two semesters in the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens in 2003-2004, but actually studied in the Karolinska Institutet, where she got her degree and M. Sc. in Biomedicine from 2004 to 2008.
She became a Research Assistant in the Karolinska Institutet & Royal Technical University (KTH) from June 2008 to July 2009, and carried on at the same position at the Karolinska Institutet from 2009 to 2010. From March 2010 to December 2015, she did her PhD, again in the Karolinska Institutet at the Department of Microbiology, Tumor & Cell biology on cancer immunotherapy. She speaks -of course- Greek and Swedish.
Immunotherapy, also called biologic therapy, is a type of cancer treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses substances either made by the body or in a laboratory to improve or restore immune system function.
She was an important part of a research team in Karolinska Institutet, at the Department of Microbiology, Tumor & Cell biology, in Sweeden, where they have generated antibodies that reprogramme a type of macrophage cell in the tumour, making the immune system better able to recognise and kill tumour cells. The study was published in the journal Cell Reports and is really promising as it could lead to a new form of therapy and maybe provide a crucial diagnostic tool in the future for treating cancer.
“We’ve found a new way of using antibodies for immunotherapy that activates immune cells, called macrophages, in the tumour”, says research team member Mikael Karlsson at the Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology. “This makes it easier for the immune system to recognise the tumour and animal studies of three different cancers have given promising results”*.
For the present study, the researchers focused on macrophages. Macrophages are immune cells whose normal function is to combat infection. However, some macrophages affect their environment in the tumour by making it easier for cancer cells to survive and spread. Commonly dominant in tumours is a type of macrophage that prevents T-cells and other immune cells from recognising and killing cancer cells. What the researchers did is they managed to reprogramme and activate these macrophages by using an antibody targeted at a protein on their cell surface, which stopped the tumours from growing and spreading in mice. The antibody therapy also boosted a type of T-cell-modifying immunotherapy in clinical use. The researchers also show that this type of macrophage can be found in human breast cancer and malignant melanoma, and therefore hope to be able to develop an antibody that can one day be used for treating these patients.