14. August, 23

August 2023 – Monthly portrait of a young researcher

Maria Ormhøj, Assistant Professor

Maria Ormhøj has a background in immune-oncology with special focus on developing novel immunotherapeutic strategies for cancer patients. She graduated with a PhD from the University of Southern Denmark focused on developing chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells for hematological cancers. After completing her PhD. Maria joined the lab of Professor Sine Reker Hadrup at the Technical University of Denmark as a postdoc fellow merging her interests in CAR T cell development with the group’s expertise in T cell detection to study the effect of CAR T cell therapy in priming the endogenous T cell responses.

Maria Ormhøj´s research is currently focusing on developing new engineering strategies to leverage the ability of CAR T cells to enhance the endogenous immune response towards brain tumors.

A key challenge in the treatment of solid tumors with CAR T cells is pre-existing antigenic heterogeneity, where not all tumor cells express the antigen targeted by the CAR. In the setting of adoptive T cell therapy, strategies to target one surface-expressed tumor antigen using CAR T cells while inducing endogenous T cell responses against additional tumor antigens is an attractive approach to overcome tumor antigen heterogeneity.

Based on this we have designed a large panel of “amored” CARs which upon target recognition will secrete a transgenic payload to modulate the endogenous immune cells (e.g. dendritic cells or T cells) or modulate the tumor microenvironment (TME) (e.g. checkpoint inhibitors, TGFb modulators). To study the effect of these new strategies we are using a variety of murine models spanning from immune incompetent mouse models engrafted with human tumors and CAR T cells or fully syngeneic models utilizing murine tumors and murine CAR T cells.

Research focus:

  • Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells
  • Brain tumors
  • Immunotherapy