Angie’s Institute

Our Research


Alex Huang, MD, PhD

A crucial part of the University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital Cancer Center's mission is to make significant scientific discoveries about blood disorders and cancers, and bring them rapidly to our patients’ care.

This is accomplished through “translational research,” in which basic scientists in the laboratory collaborate with clinicians at the bedside to find new therapies, drugs and medical devices that will change the way cancer is treated.

Some of Our Current Research Drives Include:

  • Working with University Hospitals Center for Genetics to research the predisposition and diagnosis of recurrent and secondary malignancies.
  • Pursuing high-impact clinical and basic research, leading to innovative approaches to the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer
  • Working in collaboration with the pharmaceutical industry and the federal government to identify and test new agents, bringing new treatment options to children as fast as possible.
  • Understanding what makes cancer cells start growing and on finding new ways to control cell growth
  • Translating pioneering therapies from the lab bench to the bedside
  • Becoming a leader in developing new therapeutic approaches

Watch as Dr. John Letterio talks about chemoprevention.

Regulation between immune activation and unresponsiveness is crucial in the pathogenesis of cancer, autoimmune disorders and infection. Historically, clinicians and scientists have relied on investigative tools that involve teasing apart individual cells away from their native environment to study their function in a test tube, or obtaining static snapshots of where these cells migrate within the body through examination of fixed tissues under the microscope. While useful tools in uncovering many of the principle processes which govern how cells communicate with one another, these traditional investigative tools cannot fully reconstitute the myriad of environmental cues which the immune cells gather and interpret for their proper function. For one thing, a distinguishing feature of the immune system is its dynamic and migratory capacity of the individual cellular components.

Through advances in technology, scientists are now capable of visualizing how immune cells interact with their neighbors and pathogens in their native environment in real time with single-cell resolution. Our laboratory is among the first in the world to develop the application of this technology to directly visualize immune cell trafficking, migration and interaction in animal models of disease such as cancer and multiple sclerosis.

Our laboratory is interested in applying this and other classical immunological techniques to study various aspects of anti-tumor immune responses, immune-host-pathogen interaction, T cell-mediated memory immunity, and chemokine-receptor biology.

Ongoing Projects Include:

  1. Interrogation molecular signaling crosstalk in immune cells
  2. Investigation into factors which influence the dynamic recruitment of T cells and their interactions with tumor microenvironment
  3. Imaging dynamic interaction between the brain tissue and pathogenic cells that causes an animal model of multiple sclerosis, acute experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis.
  4. Testing the efficacy of genetically-modified tumor vaccines in the setting of sarcomas and other childhood cancer
  5. Developing imaging techniques to interrogate immune cell migration and interactions in tissues such as the bone marrow, lung, kidney, GI tract and the skin

The long-term goal of our laboratory is to translate insights gained from basic investigations of in vivo immunity into rationally designed tumor vaccine and immunotherapeutic clinical trials, with a particular emphasis in the areas of pediatric sarcomas and other solid tumors.