The International Society for Interferon and Cytokine Research (ISICR) has now merged with the International Cytokine Society to form the International Cytokine and Interferon Society (ICIS). The ICIS is a non-profit organization of scientists devoted to research in the fields of interferon, cytokine and chemokine cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry and the clinical use of these biological response modifiers. Each year the ICIS sponsors an international meeting where scientists can present their latest findings to the worldwide scientific community. Membership in the society is open to all individuals interested in interferons, cytokines and chemokines. For more information about the ICIS or how to join the ICIS, please go to www.cytokinesociety.org
Dr. Sarah Gaffen is Professor, Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA. T cell-derived cytokines are critical for mediating defense against infections, but also mediate pathology in autoimmunity. In the last few years a new CD4+ T cell was discovered that plays a key role in autoimmunity, termed “Th17” based on production of the cytokine IL-17. IL-17 and its receptor are unique in structure from other known cytokines, and the Gaffen lab was among the first. The Gaffen lab also demonstrated that IL-17 is critical for immunity to infection with the commensal yeast Candida albicans. Research in the Gaffen lab focuses on function of IL-17 and its receptor in the oral mucosa. Treatment of autoimmunity was revolutionized by “biologic” drugs that neutralize cytokines, e.g., etanercept (TNF receptor antagonist) and tocilizumab (IL-6 receptor antagonist). Dr. Gaffen’s group is attempting to understand the physiological impact of cytokine blockade in humans, particularly with respect to IL-17 signaling and effects on susceptibility to mucosal infection.
Dr. Mossman currently serves as the Chair- Biochemistry and Biomedical Sciences and Professor of Pathology and Molecular Medicine at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
The focus of her research is to understand how viruses evade host immune defenses. When a virus infects a host, the host mounts an impressive immune response aimed at preventing the virus from multiplying and spreading. Viruses have evolved strategies to block this response in order to ensure their survival. Probably the most important aspect of the host immune response to virus infection is the production of an immune modulator called interferon. Interferon has a great impact on host defense mechanisms and as a result viruses have evolved multiple strategies to overcome its activities. She is currently studying the mechanisms of interferon inhibition and the countermeasures taken by different viruses.
These studies have led the Mossman lab to developing viruses for use in gene therapy and cancer therapy. The virus that they focus on is herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) which is a human pathogen that causes cold sores. They have found that by disabling the virus through removal of particular genes, the virus can grow in cancer cells and kill these cells while having no effect on healthy cells. Such viruses, called “oncolytic viruses” are currently being tested as a novel approach to cancer therapy in the hopes of eliminating tumors without the toxic side effects associated with many current treatments. HSV-1 is also being studied as a tool for gene therapy, since it is easy to manipulate, it can be targeted to specific tissues and it can house several therapeutic genes in a single vector. Thus, overall, the goal of the lab is to understand how viruses and their hosts interact with each other so that they can use viruses as tools for the treatment of multiple diseases.