Our Science

Our Science

An Ally in Their Fight Against Cancer – The immune system is a powerful ally in a patient’s fight against cancer. Nonetheless, tumor cells learn to evade immune attack through controlling various suppressive mechanisms in their immediate surroundings, known as the tumor microenvironment. These immune escape mechanisms effectively turn the immune response off rather than sustaining it, allowing tumor cells to grow unchecked.

Expanding the Benefit of Immunotherapies – The first wave of immunotherapies targeted inhibitory checkpoint receptors expressed on effector T cells such as PD-1 and CTLA-4. However, most patients do not benefit from these ground-breaking therapies. A critical reason is the tumor microenvironment. Medicines that change the suppressive nature of the tumor microenvironment have the potential, alone or in combination with first-generation therapies, to greatly expand the number of patients that benefit from cancer immunotherapies.

A Broad Attack on the Tumor Microenvironment– Surface Oncology is developing next-generation immunotherapies targeting the tumor microenvironment. Our broad attack on the tumor microenvironment has the potential to help a patient’s immune system regain its cancer-fighting abilities and bring more cures to patients. We are leveraging our deep understanding of tumor biology to target factors or cells within the tumor that effectively turn off the patient’s immune responses. To re-activate the immune response, Surface Oncology is attacking suppressive metabolites or cytokines, suppressive macrophages, regulatory T cells, and natural killer cells. We have multiple programs reactivating both the innate and adaptive immune responses.

Our Scientific Focus


Immune-suppressive metabolites and cytokines are soluble factors secreted by cells within the tumor, creating a “smog” that prevents the immune system from attacking tumor cells. Our therapies directly neutralize these factors, resulting in the activation of immune cells including effector T cells, natural killer cells, and antigen-presenting cells.



Macrophages and myeloid-suppressor cells are specialized innate immune cells that engulf and eliminate tumor cells through a process called phagocytosis. Besides the direct elimination of tumor cells, phagocytosis leads to increased antigen-presentation and activation of the adaptive immune response. Macrophage-secreted cytokines are also critical to sustain the immune response. We are targeting multiple macrophage checkpoints to stimulate tumor cell phagocytosis and to activate the patient’s immune response to fight cancer.


Regulatory T cells

Regulatory T (Treg) cells suppress the immune response of effector T cells. Increased numbers of Treg cells is associated with poor survival in several tumor types. Surface Oncology is developing medicines that selectively deplete Treg cells in the tumor in order to reactivate the patient’s immune response to fight cancer.

Regulatory T cell

Natural Killer Cells

Natural killer (NK) cells are critical for immune surveillance against cancer, and their function is governed by a balance between activating and inhibitory signals. Surface Oncology is developing medicines that block the inhibitory signals, increasing the production of stimulatory cytokines, and promoting direct tumor cell killing by NK cells.

Natural Killer Cell