CRUK Accelerator Award:
Improving Immunotherapy treatment for cancer patients

This CRUK Accelerator award is a Southampton. Led international collaboration between the CRUK Cancer Research Centres in Southampton and Oxford, and the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California. 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 in more detail which patients do not respond to therapy and why, 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 (Centres Accelerator Awards) to help the fight against cancers that are most difficult to treat. The focus of this group is on melanoma, lung and oesophageal cancers.

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 analysing 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 the proteomics and single cell molecular analysis.

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

From Southampton contributors are Prof Christian Ottensmeier, Prof Tim Elliot, Prof Peter Johnson. California researchers include Prof Tony Purcell, Prof Martin Underwood and Prof Vijay Dhanasekaran.