Clear cell renal carcinoma (ccRCC) has a unexpected relationship with obesity: individuals with obesity have a higher risk of developing ccRCC, but their cancers are typically less aggressive and more likely to respond to immunotherapies (treatments that target the immune system).
Understanding how obesity affects the formation and aggressiveness of ccRCC will open the door to new therapies and new ways to monitor the disease. Dr. Hakimi proposes that obesity leads to changes in immune cells within the tumor and the adjacent fat, making ccRCC less aggressive. He will conduct parallel laboratory and patient studies to examine immune cells in tumor and fat from lean ccRCC patients and those with obesity. His discoveries will provide insights into how obesity affects immune responses to ccRCC and consequently affect RCC development, aggressiveness, and response to therapies. Understanding the obesity paradox may help guide new treatment strategies for other cancer types, too.