Immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI), exemplified by anti-programmed death 1 antibody (anti-PD-1), are immunotherapeutic drugs that act by removing the ‘brakes’ on the immune system and unleashing an immune attack on cancer cells. These drugs are very promising for the treatment of many cancers. However, only relatively few cancer patients show significant therapeutic benefits when treated with ICI alone. Therefore, there is a strong clinical need to design combinatorial therapies based on immunotherapy and smart molecules interfering with major cancer cell processes, thereby increasing the response rates and extend the use of ICI to a larger number of patients and tumour types. One of the major causes of tumour unresponsiveness to ICI is the poor infiltration of cytotoxic immune cells into the tumour bed. Therefore, approaches that drive immune cells into cold poorly infiltrated tumours would significantly enhance the therapeutic benefit of immunotherapy based on ICI.
To this end, the TIME research group, led by Dr Bassam Janji, has partnered with Sprint Bioscience to devise novel approaches that effectively turn ‘cold’ immune-desert and immunotherapy-resistant tumours into ‘hot’ inflamed tumours infiltrated by the immune system and responsive to immunotherapy. In their highly collaborative and synergistic “SMART COMBO” project, the scientists will assess the therapeutic benefit of innovative immunotherapy combination with smart molecules modulating the tumour immune landscape by switching cold to hot tumour microenvironments. By prioritising promising combinations, “SMART COMBO” will pave the way for a new wave of innovative immunotherapeutic combinatorial approaches that could create tremendous enthusiasm in anticancer care.
We believe that true translational oncology and translational research in general can only effectively be achieved by leveraging the scientific and business expertise of internationally renowned industrial partners. We are confident that our close collaboration with Sprint Bioscience will catalyse the development of the next-generation of combinatorial treatments for a variety of cancers, with concrete and tangible benefits in the clinical practice
says Dr Janji.
The “SMART COMBO” project received financial support from the Luxembourg National Research Fund (FNR) under the BRIDGES scheme dedicated to fostering the cooperation between public research institutions in Luxembourg and companies actively involved in R&D.
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