Therapeutic targeting of nucleic acid sensing in squamous cell carcinomas

Focusing on the histological types, squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is one of the most common cancers. Comprehensive molecular characterizations have shown that SCCs originating in different organs share genomic and epigenetic alterations and are more similar to each other than to e.g. adenocarcinomas of the same organ. The integration of immunotherapy has recently resulted in significant benefit for patients; however, many still do not respond and disease progression is common. Therefore, options that target the immune response and thus increase the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibition look promising.

Compatible with this, there has been an increasing interest for nucleic acid sensing (NAS) pathways in cancer therapy. Usually, NAS pathways are activated by foreign nucleic acids upon viral infection. Their activation of the immune response characterizes NAS pathways as highly intriguing for therapeutic targeting. However, there is a lack of systematic information on whether NAS can be stimulated in SCCs.

Therefore, I will systematically screen NAS pathways in SCCs, focusing on the lung and the head and neck region. Thereby, I aim to expand the currently very limited knowledge about NAS functionality in SCCs. Moreover, this will help to assess the potential of NAS stimulation as a therapeutic modality for these cancer types. Finally, I aspire that my findings motivate novel treatment strategies leading to validation in vivo and ultimately to clinical trials.