Immunity Science at Memorial Sloan Kettering

Pictured: Developing T cells

White blood cells called T cells (green) are vital in the immune system’s response to infections and cancer. Innovative treatments pioneered by Memorial Sloan Kettering researchers harness the cells' ability to recognize and destroy cancer cells.

Memorial Sloan Kettering has a long history of leadership in immunity science, a field that provides extraordinary opportunities to relieve people’s suffering from cancer and other diseases.

In recent years, a number of scientific breakthroughs made here have helped breathe life into a century-old idea — that a person’s immune system is inherently capable of responding to cancer and can be summoned to effectively defend the body against it. In fact, clinical trials conducted at Memorial Sloan Kettering and elsewhere have shown remarkable successes for new cancer immunotherapies.

Today a large community of our researchers is pushing the limits of knowledge about the cells and molecules of the immune system. MSK takes a comprehensive research approach that incorporates a wide range of biomedical questions to elucidate the intricacies of the immune system and exploit them for the benefit of patients.

For example, our laboratory scientists explore the basic biology of immune cells, tumors, and infectious organisms at many levels, joining together various disciplines such as cell biology, genetics, structural biology, and computer science. In the clinic, we develop groundbreaking therapies, including drugs that free the immune system to react against tumors and cell-engineering methods that train a patient’s own immune cells to recognize a cancer and attack it.

In addition, we explore new ways to manage common problems of cancer treatment and hospitalization — such as infections and immune complications that may occur in transplant patients and others with compromised immune systems — and investigate the complex relationships between cancer, inflammation, and infections.

Research Programs and Collaborations

Our research on immunity spans one academic program and five collaborative research centers:

The Sloan Kettering Institute Immunology Program
Researchers in our Immunology Program investigate a broad range of fundamental immunological processes and have a long-standing record of successfully translating laboratory findings into useful clinical applications.
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Center for Cell Engineering and Cell Therapy
The Center for Cell Engineering and Cell Therapy and its associated core facility bring together laboratory scientists and clinicians to develop and implement cell-based immune therapies for cancer using chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) technology and adoptive T cell therapies.
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Lucille Castori Center for Microbes, Inflammation, and Cancer
The goal of this collaborative center is to explore the immune responses elicited by both commensal microorganisms that cause no harm and by dangerous bacterial pathogens, and how these infectious agents may promote cancer development.
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Ludwig Center for Cancer Immunotherapy
The collaborative center and its associated core facility aim to aid the development of new, mechanism-based strategies for cancer immunotherapy as well as technologies for monitoring antitumor responses in patients.
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Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy
By encouraging cooperation, data sharing, and industry partnership, the Parker Institute aims to eliminate the intellectual silos that stifle progress by giving researchers the incentive to work together on common goals.
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Immunogenomics and Precision Oncology Platform (IPOP)
IPOP is focused on understanding how the immune system recognizes and responds to cancer-specific mutations. Its mission is to develop large-scale immunogenomic discovery capabilities in partnership with clinicians and researchers within the MSK community, as well as industry collaborators.
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Recent Advances & News

Cancer genomics researcher Timothy Chan
Why a New Immunotherapy for Lung Cancer Works for Only Some People
According to an MSK study, a powerful immunotherapy drug for lung cancer works better in people whose tumors carry a lot of mutations caused by tobacco smoke.
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Thoracic surgeon and immunotherapy expert Prasad Adusumilli
Combination Immunotherapy Boosts CAR T Cell Approach for Solid Tumors
Combining checkpoint blockade with engineered T cells may lead to longer-lasting results in patients with breast cancer, lung cancer, and other solid tumors.
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This cross section of a mouse intestine shows dividing cells (stained white) in the epithelial layer of the intestine, which lines the organ. These proliferating cells help restore intestinal tissue after damage from graft-versus-host disease (GVHD).
Immune System Molecule Could Become New Treatment for Graft-Versus-Host Disease
Scientists are using a molecule from the immune system to combat this serious complication in a new way.
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