Stanford Cancer Institute News

Spring 2018

The HIMC is intended to be a single location for immune monitoring services including genomics, cell analysis, and immunoassays.

SCI Shared Resource Is a Boon to Cancer Immunology

Human Immune Monitoring Center Supports Researchers

Cancer immunotherapies—treatments that harness the power of the human immune system to fight cancer—are generating excitement in the world of oncology. But countless questions remain about the interplay between the immune system and each individual cancer type. Researchers want to know how the immune system reacts to cancers and how tumors evade the immune system.

Stanford’s Human Immune Monitoring Center (HIMC) is a central shared resource of the  Stanford Cancer Institute (SCI) that offers members support in planning immune monitoring experiments, developing assays, and analyzing the results.

“The impetus behind our center is to create a one-stop shop for immune monitoring services,”  said Holden Maecker, PhD, a Professor of Microbiology & Immunology and Director of the HIMC. “We don’t offer just one platform, but we are ready with a whole range of assays that are applicable for assessing the immune system in humans.”

The technology at the HIMC allows experiments that study the cells of the immune system—their type, frequency, and function—as well as the levels of genes and proteins related to immunity. In one recent study, Susan Knox, MD, PhD, a Professor of Radiation Oncology and SCI member, used the expertise and equipment at the HIMC to study whether the levels of different immune cells in a melanoma patient’s body can predict how well the patient responds to a combination of treatments.

In the future, Maecker imagines researchers will ask increasingly complex questions about which immunotherapy drugs are best for which patients.

“Ideally, you don’t want to just stratify your patients and say these aren’t a good match for immunotherapy, but you want to figure out what you can do to make them better candidates or  what other immunotherapy options might be better for them,” said Maecker.

To aid in these types of studies, Maecker and his colleagues are constantly scanning the field for new available technologies. They would like to add the ability to do more comprehensive analyses on single immune cells in the near future.

As the center grows, Maecker hopes that his fellow SCI members take advantage of its presence. Anyone planning immune monitoring studies will benefit from approaching the HIMC during the planning phase so the staff can help optimize sample collection and processing.