Jeanette Boudreau, PhD

Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Dalhousie University

Directing natural killer cell cytotoxicity to the tumour’s susceptibilities

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Natural killer (NK) cells are white blood cells that kill tumours. The potential of each NK cell to kill tumours is counterbalanced by its ability to be inhibited by healthy cells through its inhibitory receptors. Dr Boudreau aims to tip the balance in favour of NK killing, rather than inhibition, when they encounter a tumour cell.

Jeanette Boudreau, recipient of a 2016 Banting Research Foundation Discovery Award

Jeanette Boudreau, recipient of a 2016 Banting Research Foundation Discovery Award (Photos by Cory Jubenville)

Each NK cell has a unique sensitivity to the “on” and “off” signals given by a tumour. She is using different cancer types to understand how they act to turn NK cells on or off. She will test whether it is possible to predict and optimize tumour killing by screening and selecting NK cells based on their expression of certain receptors. She expects that in time this will allow clinicians to use NK cells as cancer therapies.