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Integrative Cancer Research Seminar


Beginning Fall 2016, the Biophysics program is launching the Integrative Cancer Research Seminar BIPH708A. The seminars will review mathematical, natural sciences, and engineering approaches relevant to cancer research, as well as pressing problems in cancer research that will benefit from a transdisciplinary perspective. The seminar is expected to feature talks by NIH investigators, University of Maryland faculty, partnership students, and external experts. BIPH708A is open for registration to students from the CMNS, School of Engineering, and other students with relevant background.

The Cancer Technology Partnership between UMD and NCI

The Cancer Technology Partnership between UMD and NCI was established to bring together the expertise in physics, mathematics and engineering at UMD with basic, clinical and translational research efforts of the NCI to solve important problems in cancer research. Several workshops have been held over the last few years where researchers from both campuses have presented their work in order to facilitate interactions and foster collaboration between researchers at the NCI and UMD. Grant applications were solicited to select specific projects for funding, several of which were funded. The research groups from UMD and NCI bring complementary expertise needed for significant advance in solving these complex biological problems.

As part of this collaborative project the researchers are investigating how adhesive and cytoskeletal forces generated by TCR interactions and actin dynamics are involved in the activation of T cell signaling. The results of this research show that the morphological dynamics, cellular forces as well as signaling activation of T cells are all modulated by the mechanical stiffness of the antigen presenting surface mechanical stiffness of the antigen presenting surface. These results indicate a significant role for mechanical regulation of biochemical signaling pathways in cells of the immune system. An understanding of the mechanobiology of T cell activation has implications in developing new approaches for enhancing or subduing immune responses in cancer.

One of the funded projects is a collaboration which brings together the expertise of the Samelson lab (NCI) in lymphocyte signaling with the biophysics expertise of the Upadhyaya lab (UMD). The goal of this project is to understand the role of physical forces in T cell signaling activation. T cells are central cells in the immune response to infectious agents. They bear highly specific antigen receptors (TCRs), which bind foreign antigens and many believe that this specificity can be exploited to target specific tumor antigens. The exact mechanisms by which T cells are activated by antigens are still unknown. Recent work has shown that physical forces may enable TCR triggering potentially by deformation induced conformational changes in the TCR.