The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences
Mira Barda-Saad obtained her PhD degree in Molecular Immunology summa cum laude in 1999, following a collaborative research at Bar-Ilan University (BIU) and the Weizmann Institute of Science (WIS). She performed her initial postdoctoral studies at the WIS (1999-2001) and later at the NCI/NIH, Bethesda, MD, USA (2001-2006). She received the Fellows Award for Research Excellence (FARE) from the NIH (2005) for identifying the dynamics and molecular linkage between T-cell antigen receptor (TCR) signaling to the actin machinery, and specifically to the Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome protein (WASp). In October 2006, she joined the Faculty of Life Sciences at BIU. She was awarded the Taubenblatt Award for Research Excellence in Biomedicine in 2009. Since November 2016, Prof. Barda-Saad serves as president of the Israeli Immunological Society (IIS). Mira Barda-Saad’s research focuses on signal transduction mechanisms in immune cells, and specifically, on cytoskeletal networks regulating leukocyte behavior in health and disease e.g. cancer and primary immunodeficiencies.
Annual Activity Report, March 2017 – Novel Personalized Immunotherapeutic Approaches For Treating Cancer. Immunotherapy aims to strengthen the body’s immune system in order to treat pathologies e.g. cancer. In order to escape the immune system, cancer cells often disturb the balance between activating and inhibitory signals within lymphocytes that play a key role in the elimination of cancer cells. A major escape mechanism of tumors involves the downregulation of activating ligands, which prevents recognition by the immune cells, or upregulation of inhibitory ligands that suppress the immune response. As such, a major immunotherapy that evolved in the recent years, known as the immune checkpoint blockade, aims at masking inhibitory receptors e.g. PD-1, CTLA4 etc. expressed over the surface of immune cells or their ligands expressed by cancer cells. This immunotherapy has resulted in remarkable immune-mediated clearance of incurable tumors and metastases. However, many patients do not respond to treatment with the currently available inhibitors due to genetic incompatibility of the patient's immune system or of the tumor cells, or otherwise demonstrated severe autoimmune reaction, resulting in life-threatening complications or even death. These data emphasize the need for the development of novel protocols for designing genetically compatible, tailor-made i.e. personalized treatments to regulate the immune response in a robust and safe manner. Prof. Mira Barda-Saad's (MBS) laboratory focuses on the inhibitory signals. The group recently identified novel, intracellular immune checkpoints and harnesses them in order to boost the immune response (Science Signaling, 2016 and EMBO J., 2018). Several limitations exist concerning this methodology as an efficient and safe therapeutic approach for the majority of cancer patients. By using personalized medicine approach, the many variables encompassed in the different layers of regulation of the immune system can be mapped to enable designing the appropriate treatment for a specific patient. Screening a given patient’s profile from the perspective of immune cell polymorphisms and heterogeneous tumor microenvironments, can give critical insights into which treatments may exhibit the best therapeutic potential, yet not induce autoimmune pathologies.