DPhil, Nuffield Department of Medicine
Characterising biomarkers for the response to immunotherapy in oesophageal cancer
Oesophageal cancer has a poor prognosis and a rising incidence particularly in Western countries. The LUD2015-005 Trial is a Phase 1/2 study that investigates the merit of immunotherapy for oesophageal cancer patients. Immunotherapy has revolutionised the treatment of many cancers, such as melanoma, but only a fraction of patients with oesophageal cancer seem to respond to this therapy. By analysing patient samples from the LUD2015-005 trial, my research therefore aims to contribute to an understanding why some patients respond to immunotherapy and some do not, and if there is a way to predict who will respond. To this end I will be studying the role of certain immune cells and molecules, both within the tumour and in the blood in patients pre- and post-therapy.
How could this research ultimately benefit patients?
Oesophageal cancer is often diagnosed late and many patients are no longer eligible for surgery. Mean one year survival for stage IV oesophageal cancer patients is less than 20% (CRUK, 2021), thus there is as significant unmet medical need. However, immunotherapy is also associated with substantial side effects and the therapy is very expensive, thus there is also urgent need for patient stratification.
If successful, my work will not only contribute to an improved understanding of the factors underlying an effective anti-tumour immune response, but will also help identify patients that will likely respond to immunotherapy or need further treatment and follow-up.
Before starting I had just completed the first four years of medical school in Oxford. In our intercalated FHS research year I chose to specialise in Molecular Pathology and Immunology. For my FHS research project I was involved in researching the role of inflammation in the blood-forming bone marrow microenvironment in children with Trisomy 21, who are predisposed to developing childhood leukaemia, with the Roberts lab in the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine.