Investigating why some melanoma patients are more responsive to immunotherapy

Dr Victoria Woodcock is a specialty registrar in Medical Oncology and a CRUK Oxford Centre Clinical Research Training Fellow (CRTF) undertaking a DPhil in Oncology, based in Vincenzo Cerundolo’s lab in the MRC Human Immunology Unit (MRC HIU) at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine. Victoria graduated from Warwick University Medical School in 2009 and has a postgraduate certificate in Oncology from the Institute of Cancer Research.

Victoria’s research is in the field of immune-oncology, investigating what underlies differential responses of cancer patients to immunotherapy treatment. Immunotherapy drugs are a relatively recent development, proving to be highly effective for some cancers such as metastatic melanoma but only in a small population of patients. Finding out what makes some responsive and others resistant is key to improving patient outcomes. Victoria is studying the effect of checkpoint inhibitor treatment on the peripheral immune response in patients with metastatic melanoma, focusing on the effect on tumour-specific T-cells. Using a combination of techniques including mass cytometry, MHC class I tetramers and single cell sequencing she is studying in depth how the immune system responds to treatment, and identifying differences between patients who do and don’t benefit from treatment. This work aims to uncover why some patients are more likely to be responsive to immunotherapy treatment.

Identifying markers in the blood predictive of response or resistance to immunotherapy has the potential to provide a non-invasive and early measure of whether the treatment is going to benefit an individual patient. Victoria says, “This could potentially spare some patients from receiving treatment and the risk of side-effects when they are unlikely to benefit and may also guide alternative more effective treatment strategies for them.”

In Oxford Victoria’s collaborators are Vincenzo Cerundolo, Giorgio Napolitani and Hashem Koohy (MRC HIU), Mark Middleton (Oncology). Internationally she works with Lars Ronn Olsen, and Christina Pedersen. She is funded by a CRUK Oxford Centre Clinical Research Training Fellowship, Cancer Research UK Programme Grant (#C399/A2291 to V.C) and the Medical Research Council (MRC).

Find out more about our research below

Epigenetic markers for melanoma patient response to ICB therapy

Development fund winners Rosalin Cooper & Ben Fairfax are investigating the epigenetic landscape of melanoma patients and how it can impact patient sensitivity to ICB therapy

New melanoma cancer drug in development shows promise

University of Oxford and Immunocore Ltd have investigated Tebentafusp, a new anti-tumor immune response drug for patients with metastatic melanoma

Researchers discover mutation that determines treatment efficiency

Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine researchers have recently discovered why a class of cancer drugs is beneficial only in a subset of patients

Mapping the T-cell landscape of pancreatic cancer

Through analysis of T-cell populations, researchers Drs Enas Abu-Shah & Shivan Sivakumar identify novel therapeutic opportunities in pancreatic cancer patients