Our Research

We aim to understand immune hubs to unleash the full potential of cancer immunotherapy.

The image shows a laboratory bench with test tubes in an orange rack and color-coded pipette tips in the foreground, with blurred lab equipment in the background.

Immunotherapy, the use of agents that stimulate or suppress immune responses to combat disease, has revolutionized the treatment of certain types of cancer. However, many cancers are unresponsive to immunotherapy for reasons that remain poorly understood. Immune cells cannot execute their function in isolation, but require interactions with other immune and non-immune cells. In a large collaborative systems biology effort, we discovered multiple cellular communities—or “hubs”—where malignant and immune cells interact in the tumors of patients with colorectal cancer. Furthermore, we found that tumors that were likely to respond to immunotherapy contained different types of hubs than those who don’t respond. By pursuing the characterization of immune hubs in solid tumors, we hope to identify molecular mechanisms that could be harnessed to design novel immunotherapies for currently non-responsive tumors.

Support Pelka Lab

If you are excited about our research and would like to support it through a philanthropic gift, please contact us.

Our People

We are a brand new lab located at the Gladstone Institutes in sunny Mission Bay looking for passionate students and postdoctoral fellows to join us in our mission to decode the cellular interaction networks that shape immune responses in human tumors. We are excited to grow into a cross-disciplinary, collaborative and diverse lab that includes clinicians, immunologists, geneticists, cancer researchers, and computational biologists.

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