Through the Oxford Cancer Immuno-Oncology Network (OCION), we aim to realise the long-term curative benefits of immunotherapy for more patients by devising new treatments, broadening the impact of existing treatments, and reducing side effects.
The importance of the immune system in cancer biology has long been understood. However, the clinical use of cancer immunotherapy - treatments that take advantage of the body's immune system to fight cancer – is still in it's infancy.
Launched in 2023, OCION was established to bring together scientists from different disciplines, cutting-edge technologies and patient samples to progress our immuno-oncology understanding to the next level. By applying our leading expertise in fundamental immunology, we hope to enable more patients, with a wide range of cancer types, to benefit safely from tailored immunotherapy use.
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All University of Oxford or OUHFT researchers with an interest in immunology are welcome to join the network. If you wish become a member and to be added the mailing list to hear about future events and funding opportunities, please email: email@example.com.
What are the challenges we are tackling?
1. Expanding the immuno-oncology footprint
Immuno-oncology treatment is curative in many cases, however there are significant numbers of patients for which they are ineffective. Understanding why this is will allow us to better target these expensive agents to individuals most likely to benefit, as well as developing new strategies for sensitising unresponsive patients.
Oxford is uniquely placed to establish a common phenotyping platform and shared data repository to widen access to technologies and data for researchers with expertise in inflammation, cellular therapies, vaccines and viruses, infection, microbiome, adaptive immunity and novel immune-typing technology. By drawing these groups together we will be able to build a comprehensive understanding of the distinct phenotypic and functional states of the tumour immune microenvironment (TIME) and the immune mechanisms associated with successful therapy responses including conventional (chemo/radiotherapy) as well as immunotherapy.
We are overcoming barriers to developing a comprehensive analysis of the immunobiology of normal and diseased tissues by harmonising data across multiple organ-specific pathologies. This will pave the way for novel therapeutic strategies developed by our abundant clinical and translational expertise.
2. Minimising immuno-oncology toxicity
All cancer treatments have toxic side-effects. Understanding and predicting immune-related adverse side-effects is essential to minimise the morbidity associated with immuno-oncology treatment and improve patient care.
With expert researchers in the area of autoimmune conditions of the organs which are affected by immuno-oncology side effects (irAEs - including gut, skin, joints and liver), Oxford is uniquely placed to derive novel insights into the contributing factors that cause immune-toxicity. By comparing the different immune phenotypic stages of these conditions, their triggers will be identified so that we can develop new ways to predict and prevent them from happening. In doing so, we may also be able to improve the efficacy of the cancer treatment itself.
Oxford Cancer’s vision for fully leveraging this expertise is to provide support for these researchers, to combine their efforts and promote the analysis of carefully-selected patients with diverse immune-related diseases to yield the most information.
3. Inducing tumour-specific immunity and preventing escape
Oxford is home to numerous researchers with expertise in how the immune system detects and responds to infection and malignant transformation, as well as those with knowledge of how these processes are mitigated by factors in the tumour immune microenvironment.
Together, researchers are working to understand how cancer cells are able to evade the immune response, and develop new ways of both preventing and reversing it.
Oxford Cancer seeks to combine researcher efforts and promote the analysis of pre- and early stage cancers, with aim to ultimately develop a comprehensive model for the origins of tumour evasion.