University of Minnesota
MICaB Graduate Program
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Current Students

Frances Sjaastad

Thesis Advisor: Tom Griffith

Year entered: 2016

Degrees received:
B.S., University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, 2013

Thesis Research:

Sepsis strikes 750,000 Americans annually, and ~33% of these patients die – far more than from prostate cancer, breast cancer, and AIDS combined. Patients who survive severe sepsis often display prolonged immune system dysfunction with deficits in innate and adaptive immune responses. Cancer is the most common comorbidity in septic patients with nearly 93,000 cases annually. Importantly, cancer is also the comorbidity associated with the highest risk of death in patients with sepsis. The objective of my predoctoral research is to study the mechanisms responsible for the functional impairment in innate and adaptive immune cells that contribute to enhanced tumor growth and metastasis using the cecal ligation and puncture (CLP) model of sepsis. This objective is based in part on published data from the lab showing sepsis compromises the host’s ability to mount optimal CD4 and CD8 T cell responses to newly introduced antigens. The central hypothesis of my thesis project holds that alterations in the number and function of T cells and DC after sublethal CLP-induced sepsis are responsible for the suppressed immunity that leads to increased mortality from cancer induction in sepsis survivors. Our rationale for these studies is that once we understand how cells within the adaptive and innate arms of the immune system are affected during sepsis, we will be able to develop new and innovative therapeutic approaches to restore immune cell numbers and function in sepsis survivors.