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Emily Steffke

DPhil student

Research Interests

Our lab is interested in the development of therapeutic anti-cancer vaccines, which have the ability to drive an immune response against specific cancers. Our group is primarily focused on using the chimpanzee-derived adenovirus ChAdOx1 and modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) heterologous prime-boost vaccination platform, which offers the advantage of driving particularly robust cytotoxic T cell responses. This makes the platform an attractive candidate for use in the context of glioblastoma. Glioblastoma is a devastating disease, with less than five percent of patients surviving beyond five years. There is an urgent need to develop better treatments for glioblastoma, but previous vaccine-based interventions have failed in a clinical setting. Thus, my project uses experimental models to investigate the potential of using the ChAdOx1-MVA platform for the delivery of glioblastoma-specific antigens, as well as strategies to further vaccine efficacy in the context of the brain, including combination therapy with checkpoint inhibitors and Natural Killer T (NKT) agonists.

Background

I earned my B.S. in Neuroscience as well as B.A. in English from Michigan State University (MSU). While at MSU, I was involved in research projects investigating the neurobiological underpinnings of stress-induced cognitive dysfunction, for which I was awarded the Goldwater Scholarship, as well as how cancer cells escape immune detection. I was also involved in summer research internships at the National Institute of Mental Health, the University of Oregon, and the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), which honed my interests in neuroscience and cancer. As a Marshall Scholar and NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholar, I am undertaking a D.Phil. in Biomedical Sciences at the Ludwig Institute in collaboration with researchers at the Neuro-Oncology Branch at the National Cancer Institute in the U.S. to pursue my goal of developing immune-based interventions for brain cancer.