The Cancer Foundation supports a research project from LIH on skin cancer
To foster application-targeted research in oncology, the Luxembourgish Cancer Foundation (Fondation Cancer) finances a 3-year research project on melanoma led by Dr Bassam Janji from LIH’s Department of Oncology. The project aims to investigate novel ways to improve current immunotherapeutic strategies by using combinatorial drug approaches.
On 12th October 2016, Dr Carlo Bock, President of the Cancer Foundation, and Lucienne Thommes, Director of the Cancer Foundation, handed over a cheque of 263,210 Euro to Dr Bassam Janji and Dr Guy Berchem, Deputy Head and Head of the Laboratory of Experimental Cancer Research, respectively, in the presence of Dr Catherine Larue, CEO ad interim of LIH.
Melanoma is the most aggressive type of skin cancer and the leading cause of death from skin disease. Every year, almost 60,000 new cases are diagnosed in Europe, and approximately 16,000 people die from the disease. In Luxembourg, the estimated incidence of melanoma was 14.2 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2012. Patients with unresectable or metastatic melanoma have a poor prognosis, so there is an urgent need to improve current treatment options.
The approval of immunotherapy with monoclonal antibodies inhibiting immune checkpoints has dramatically changed the treatment of advanced melanoma in recent years. Although these antibodies have demonstrated an impressive clinical response and positive impact on overall survival in advanced melanoma patients, the related toxicity and the development of tumour resistance in some patients are emerging challenges to overcome.
‘There is increasing evidence that a therapy targeting tumour resistance mechanisms in combination with immunotherapy could provide long-lasting responses in a broader spectrum of patients’ tells Dr Janji. In the present project, a preclinical model will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of immune checkpoint inhibitors (immunotherapy) in combination with blocking autophagy, the process of cell recycling which is activated under the hypoxic conditions (lack of oxygen) that exist in the tumour microenvironment and contributes to tumour resistance.
‘This project is in line with the objectives of National Cancer Plan in which cancer immunology was defined as one of the major research axes’, emphasises Dr Berchem. ‘The ultimate objective of our project is to provide the proof-of concept to conduct clinical trials for the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors in combination with drugs inhibiting autophagy as innovative therapeutic approaches for the treatment of melanoma’, outlines Dr Janji.
Photo (for left to right): Dr Catherine Larue (CEO ad interim of LIH), Dr Guy Berchem (Head of the Laboratory of Experimental Cancer Research, LIH), Dr Bassam Janji (Deputy Head of the Laboratory of Experimental Cancer Research, LIH), Dr Carlo Bock (President of the Cancer Foundation) and Lucienne Thommes (Director of the Cancer Foundation)