Research Overview

Increasingly, patient tumors are viewed as complex battlegrounds between cancer cells and immune cells, where standard therapies often tip the balance in favor of an anti-cancer immune response. While these therapies are effective for many, they fail to help approximately 30% of patients, with clinical response rates hovering around 70%. Consequently, a pressing clinical issue is identifying effective cancer drugs for the remaining patients who do not respond to standard treatments. This challenge is addressed through two complementary clinical and scientific goals:

  • Build Clinical Diagnostics: to distinguish responders from non-responders.
  • Define Current Drugs’ Mechanisms: to identify optimal treatments for non-responders.

The Douglass Lab’s long term goal is to develop clinical diagnostics that can identify suitable drugs for patients who are unresponsive to first-line therapies. Our laboratory comprises both computational and experimental divisions:

  • Our Computational Program is dedicated to developing algorithms to analyze the cancer-immune “battlefield” within primary tumors. This initiative leverages RNA-sequencing and new spatial transcriptomic technologies to characterize cancer cells and immune cells in tumor biopsy samples.
  • Our Experimental Program  focuses on identifying FDA-approved drugs that selectively eliminate cancer cells and stimulate an anti-cancer immune response. This program is pioneering time-course high throughput screening (time-HTS) technology, to simultaneously evaluate ~1,000 drugs on a patient-specific cancer and immune cells within three days.

These programs are integral components of a broader Translational Research Program situated within UGA’s Precision One Health Center. Our efforts extend to both human and canine cancers, in collaboration with clinical oncologists and veterinarians. Our research into human cancer is conducted alongside oncologists at Winship Cancer Institute at Emory University and immunologists at the Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University. Meanwhile, our canine cancer studies are in partnership with Jonathon Mochel’s and Karin Allenspach’s laboratories at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia.