Using cholesterol to boost anti-tumour T cells

Dr Vincenzo Russo
Project period
Apr 2023 - Mar 2026
Research Institute
Università Vita-Salute San Raffaele
Cancer types
Lung cancer
Award amount

Project aim

Dr Vincenzo Russo and his team are studying how cholesterol plays a role in the anti-tumour abilities of T cells. They hope this will reveal ways to improve treatments like immunotherapy that harness the immune system.

Hope for the future

Adoptive T cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy that works by using cancer-fighting T cells (a type of immune cell) to kill cancer cells. Many patients that who previously had no other options have been given precious time thanks to immunotherapy, however sadly many others do not experience any benefit – they resist the treatment.
Dr Vincenzo Russo and his team hope to find a way to help more patients with adoptive T cell therapy. They believe that understanding more about the molecules T cells need to function could reveal new ways to target them with medication that boosts their cancer-fighting abilities. Uncovering this knowledge could help improve anti-tumour treatments like immunotherapy and increase the quality of life of cancer patients.

Meet the scientist

Dr Russo first started studying cancer looking specifically at tumour immunology and immunotherapy. He hopes to make a difference to the quality of life of cancer patients, and wants to use the new knowledge we can learn through discovery research to find new treatments for cancer patients. Outside of the lab, Dr Russo enjoys playing tennis and the guitar, as well as reading philosophy books.

The science

Adoptive T cell therapy works by harnessing the power of immune cells called T cells (also called T lymphocytes), which naturally work to fight disease in our body. Some types of this therapy work by simply making more of our T cells, others are more complex and involve genetically engineering the T cells to improve how they work.

Dr Russo and his team recently discovered that T cells can last a long time in the body and can hold ‘memory’ to help kill fight cancer cells. We don’t yet know much about what these cells need to function properly, however Dr Russo has found that altering how cholesterol is used in the microenvironment of the tumour can help to generate more of these memory T cells – ones that can fight tumours better.

For this project, the researchers hope to build on this finding and work out why manipulating cholesterol boosts the anti-tumour abilities of these T cells. By uncovering this new information, they could identify new ways to target the T cells and boost their anti-tumour abilities, and ultimately improve the quality of life of cancer patients.

Without your kind and genuine generosity, many projects that unravel the key mechanisms for generating knowledge and new approaches to cancer patients’ care would not be investigated.
Dr Vincenzo Russo

Become a Curestarter and help us fund the next pioneering research project.

Our research projects wouldn't be possible without the funds we receive from people like you. Just £24 can pay for an hour of research. 

Support us

Join our monthly newsletter

Keep up to date with all our latest news, events, groundbreaking research discoveries and much more!

You're now a Curestarter!

Our newsletter usually drops towards the end of each month

Thanks for subscribing