Grants awarded

‘Killing me softly’: role of forces in stiffness-dependent tumour-cell killing by T cells

Grantholder:

Anna Lippert

University of Cambridge

United Kingdom

Our immune system constantly clears our body from malignant cells through T killer cells. These scan the surface of their surrounding cells for signs of abnormality and initiate killing when activated. How T killer cells decide to kill the target cell is not yet understood, but the decision-making process is shown to be influenced by target cell stiffness and the ability to push and pull on the other cell. It seems that the softer tumour cells are able to escape the immune response, possibly through presenting less resistance to the T cell. 

I want to uncover the mechanism of this stiffness-sensitive killing by visualising the forces inside T cells encountering targets of varying stiffness, and identify the decisive factor in the killing decision. This will not only give us insights into mechanisms of T-cell activation and killing, but possibly also open new avenues for therapeutic intervention.