Project title: The role of the B7x pathway in the progression of NETs

Steven K Libutti, MD Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

Steven K Libutti, MD
  • Status: Active
  • Year(s): 2019
  • Grant Type: Accelerator
  • Research Type: Basic
  • Primary Tumor Site: Pancreas
  • Area of Inquiry: Immune environment
  • Also seen in July 2020 eUpdate


Libutti will conduct laboratory experiments to characterize the role of an immune regulator called B7x (known to be present in NETs) in stopping T-cells from recognizing and killing pancreatic NET cells that can serve as the basis for the exploration of a new immunotherapy to treat pancreatic NETs.

What question will the researchers try to answer?

In what ways does the B7x molecule in pancreatic NETs somehow prevent the immune system’s soldier cells (T-cells) from recognizing and killing NET cells?

Why is this important?

Understanding what role B7x molecules play in preventing the body’s immune response from recognizing and killing cancer cells is the first step in considering whether treatment targeting B7x could slow or stop pancreatic NET growth.

What will researchers do?

In laboratory studies, researchers will look at the role of the B7x molecule in pancreatic NET growth. Specifically, they will look at what happens to tumor growth in laboratory tumor models when B7x is eliminated. Leveraging existing knowledge of how pancreatic NETs develop, researchers will conduct multiple experiments that simulate different scenarios, mapping cellular response to understand more precisely the role of B7x. With detailed insights into the regulatory pathways involved, researchers will look for ways to interrupt the process responsible for turning off the immune response.

How might this improve the treatment of NETs?

To date, immunotherapy has not proven to be an effective approach in treating NETs, despite its success in other cancer types. Should researchers identify a new regulator of pancreatic NET growth, these insights could drive the pursuit of immunotherapy for  NETs.

What is the next step?

If this study shows B7x plays a role in turning off the body’s immune response to pancreatic NETs, more advanced studies of identified targets in laboratory models could explore drugs that eliminate B7x’s influence on the body’s immune response.

Additional Details

  • City: New Brunswick
  • State: NJ
  • Country: USA
  • Grant Duration: 4
  • Awards: Petersen Accelerator Award
  • Sponsor: Margie and Robert E. Petersen Foundation


NETRF funds laboratory research to understand the development of neuroendocrine tumors and translational research to explore new concepts in treatment. Research grant descriptions and research updates from NETRF are not intended to serve as medical advice. It can take years for research discoveries to be fully validated and approved for patient care. Always consult your health care providers about your treatment options.

« Back to all funded research projects