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

Using Herpesvirus to fight cancer

The Seymour lab at the Department of Oncology, University of Oxford, has published a new paper investigating the use of oncolytic herpes virus-1 as a vector to augment immunotherapy in cancer

T-cell landscape mapping identifies new targets for pancreatic cancer immunotherapy

Through analysis of T-cell populations, Oxford pancreatic researchers identify novel therapeutic opportunities in pancreatic cancer patients
Doctor looking at skin

Higher testosterone levels in men linked to greater melanoma risk

New research from Dr Eleanor Watts at the Nuffield Department of Population Health has found this association for the first time

DeLIVER clinical research study underway as recruitment opens

The DELPHI project, one of three clinical studies within the DeLIVER programme for early detection of liver cancer, has started recruiting patients.

Prof Andi Roy receives new award for immune-cell research

Co-funded by Cancer Research UK and Children with Cancer UK, Andi is one of 5 to receive £1 million each to investigate children’s and young people’s cancers.
An animated drawing of a syringe releasing contents that attacks cancer cells

Improving immunotherapy through epigenetics

Professor Yang Shi’s group uses combination therapy to eradicate tumours that previously responded poorly to immunotherapy
Christina Ye

Christina Ye awarded CRUK pre-doctoral fellowship

Christina Ye has been awarded CRUK pre-doctoral fellowship, she tells us about her upcoming project into T cell trafficking between the blood and skin when patients undergo checkpoint immunotherapy

New melanoma drug a step closer to the clinic

Clinical trials into the use of Tebentafusp for metastatic uveal melanoma have been conducted by the University of Oxford and Immunocore. The positive results of the most recent trial mean this drug could now be used in future treatment.

What we can learn from cancer survivors

Understanding how an individual survives cancer, and why they respond well to therapy, can be vital in identifying new therapeutic targets. A new project seeks to see why some advanced pancreatic cancer patients overcome the odds and respond positively to treatment.