Modelling patient data to improve personalised cancer therapies

Hashem Koohy was awarded a PhD in Systems Biology from Warwick University in 2010. He then moved to the Sanger Institute for a postdoc position with Prof. Tim Hubbard to work on transcriptional regulation and gene function. He subsequently took on a postdoc at the  Babraham institute where he became interested in the regulation of the mammalian adaptive immune system. In 2017, Hashem joined Oxford as a junior group leader. He is currently an MRC-funded group leader at the Human Immunology Unit based at the Weatherall Institute of Molecular Medicine (WIMM), studying mechanisms underlying heterogeneity of response in personalised cancer immunotherapies.

Over the past decade, different types of personalised immunotherapy treatments have revolutionised cancer treatment and significantly expanded survival time for cancers such as melanoma. However not all patients with these cancers benefit from or respond to immunotherapy the same way, and therefore biomarkers for improved response are highly sought. Moreover, cost reductions and advancements in sequencing technologies such as single-cell methods mean that patients may be associated with giga- (if not tera) bytes of data. A serious challenge lies in understanding and extracting biologically and immunologically significant information from these data, to develop insights into the complexity of the disease at question.

Hashem’s group applies mathematical and machine-learning models to high throughput sequencing patient data such as genomics, transcriptomics, epigenomics and proteomics. The data they are using to develop new models and algorithms comes from tens of thousands of patients. Their aim is to find out about the heterogeneity of response to treatment between cancer patients, ultimately hoping to hone our ability to offer personalised treatments to patients. Cancer vaccine targets are also part of this search, with a further aim being to predict vaccine targets that can be used as part of personalised vaccines to either prevent cancer initiation or train the immune system to find and destroy cancerous cells.

Hashem’s research is, by its nature, challenging and multi-disciplinary. He collaborates with a number of renowned immunologists within Oxford including the teams of Prof Cerudolo, Prof Simmons, and Prof Dong. Hashem is funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and HIU’s core budget.

Find out more about our research below

Women

Using big data in breast cancer research

The Cancer Epidemiology Unit has been using the largest epidemiological data set of its kind to unlock the secrets of breast cancer, what can be done to prevent it, and which women are most likely to develop it

Therapeutic potential for breast cancer found in the matrix

Work currently underway in the laboratory of Prof Kim Midwood is investigating the therapeutic anti-cancer potential of tenascin-C, a molecule found in the extracellular matrix of breast cancer

The developmental origins of resistant infant leukaemia

The Roy and Milne labs are investigating the developmental origins of infant leukaemia and its influence on the biology of the disease

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

Dr Eileen Parkes joins Oxford Cancer

Eileen brings research into the body’s innate immune response to cancer and how we can harness these pathways to develop novel clinical treatments