Research Directions

Our overall interest is to decipher the molecular mechanisms responsible for productive or defective immune responses against chronic diseases like cancer and exploit knowledge to design effective therapeutic strategies with potential clinical applications.

Mechanisms of immune surveillance and suppression in cancer
This research goal is to dissect the cellular and molecular mechanisms that control the immune surveillance and suppression in cancer. In particular, we are interested in studying the molecular control of the functional interactions among innate immune cells (including dendritic cells, macrophages, natural killer cells, and neutrophils), T cells, and tumor cells in the tumor microenvironment. We primarily focus on studying molecules that regulate the interfaces of tumor immunology, neuroendocrinology, and metabolism. 

Engineering immune cells against cancer
Along this research direction, we will explore the genetic engineering of T cells, dendritic cells (DCs), natural killer (NK) cells and invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells for treating cancer in pre-clinical animal models. Strategies include providing the immune cells with tumor-recognition specificity and enhancing their tumor-fighting capacity.

Engineering stem cells against cancer
Building on our previous success in genetically programming blood stem cells to develop into tumor-killer T cells and invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells, we will further explore engineering blood stem cells, pluripotent stem cells and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to generate immune cells battling cancer.

Lili Yang Lab • UCLA • 610 Charles Young Dr. East • TLSB 3045 • Los Angeles • California 90095-7243