Compartmentalized and Systemic Interactions of the Skin Microbiome in Cancer Immunotherapy Response


ASPIRE Award (2019-2020)

Julia Oh, PhD, The Jackson Laboratory

Julia Oh’s lab is using metagenomics to better predict patient responses to immunotherapy, rationally design microbial adjuvant cocktails, and engineer microbes to improve therapeutic outcomes. A central question is the role of the local microbiota vs. systemic effects in potentiating these immunotherapeutics. In skin cancer, Oh and her group have been studying how the skin microbiome affects predisposition and progression. Specific gut microbes have been implicated in the outcomes for immunotherapy response in melanoma skin cancer, supporting a role of systemic immune interactions via the gut in potentiating immunotherapy response. However, because many aspects of cutaneous immunity are compartmentalized from systemic immune effects, they hypothesize that the skin microbiome could uniquely impact skin cancer outcomes during immunotherapy by modulating the cutaneous immune milieu. To investigate this interaction, Oh’s group will complement prospective clinical studies with mechanistic studies in mouse models. They will investigate different human skin cancer types to identify overarching skin microbiome signatures for skin cancer immunotherapy response. These will then be studied in targeted studies of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma-immunotherapy interactions. By investigating mechanisms of skin cancer that are both new and complementary to the existing skin cancer research field, this project may open new avenues of skin cancer research based on microbial mechanisms of disease.

Julia Oh, PhD

published research

Whitfill T, Oh J. Recoding the metagenome: microbiome engineering in situ. Curr Opin Microbiol. 2019.

Emiola A, Zhou W, Oh J. Metagenomic growth rate inferences of strains in situ. Sci Adv. 2020.

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