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Improving Immunotherapy treatment for cancer patients

Immunotherapy drugs attacking a cancer cell

The Southampton Immune Accelerator is an international collaboration between the CRUK Cancer Research Centres in Southampton and Oxford, and the La Jolla Institute for ImmunologyCalifornia. The consortium aims to develop new clinical tests to identify who will likely benefit from immunotherapy intervention with the ultimate objective of enabling clinicians to pick which patients to treat. In addition, the group aim to understand better non-responsiveness to immunotherapy treatment, with the hope of identifying novel sensitisation treatment approaches to expand the number of patients who can benefit from this relatively new class of systemic therapies.

The consortium is part of a £16 million UK-wide CRUK initiative to help the fight against cancers that are most difficult to treat. The focus of this group is on melanoma, lung and oesophageal cancers, and complete their work in 2021.

To achieve their goals, the team applies microscaled methods to directly decipher the molecular architecture of immune responses in tumour tissue, how tumour recognition occurs in vivo, as well as investigating the tumour immunogenicity by analysis of their mutanome, transcriptome and immunopeptidome. The researchers involved are already delivering cutting-edge research into innovative immunotherapies, but can do this even more successfully within this international network. The information gathered from the consortium will support the more effective targeting of both generic and antigen-specific immune therapies in the clinic in the UK and worldwide, allowing for a rational application of combinatorial immunotherapy strategies. Oxford’s contribution to this research involves delivering clinical samples, clinical trials, standards of care, the proteomics and single cell molecular analysis.

Oxford’s key researchers within the consortium are Prof Mark Middleton (leading on clinical trials of immunotherapy), Prof Xin Lu (scientific lead in oesophageal trial), Dr Nicola Ternette, Prof Tim Elliott, and Dr Benedikt Kessler (proteomics).

The Southampton contributors are Prof Christian OttensmeierProf Peter JohnsonCalifornia researchers include Prof Tony PurcellProf Tim Underwood and Prof Vijay Dhanasekaran.