€1.5 million to make immunotherapy suitable for more cancer patients3 September 2019• NEWSITEM
Researcher Noel de Miranda wishes to make immunotherapy accessible to more cancer patients. "At present, only a small proportion of patients benefit from this promising treatment." To achieve his goal, De Miranda is receiving a Starting Grant of €1.5 million from the European Research Council (ERC).
"Immunotherapy involving so-called checkpoint blockers have revolutionized the treatment of cancer, especially for patients with melanoma and small cell lung cancer. Despite this success, less than fifteen percent of cancer patients ultimately benefit from immunotherapy," says De Miranda. He heads the Immunogenomics group of the Pathology department at the Leiden University Medical Centre.
Specific and effective
De Miranda will use the European €1.5 million grant to make existing immunotherapies suitable for more patients and to develop new forms of immunotherapy. In immunotherapy, the immune system is used to fight cancer cells. One of the goals of De Miranda and his team is to find out, in detail, what the immune cells that recognize cancer cells look like. "If we can recognize them very specifically, we can isolate them from the tumour and use them as very specific and effective treatment agents," he explains.
The team will also develop new immunotherapies that target a still unexplored portion of genetic material in cancer cells. “We are searching for characteristics that occur only in tumour cells and not in healthy cells, so that we can design highly targeted immunotherapies with reduced side effects.”
Also, De Miranda wants to discover new types of immune cells that have a potential anti-cancer effect. "At present we are mainly working with T-cells, but there are many more types of immune cells. We will be studying what subtypes of immune cells are active in the vicinity of a tumour, and how they interact with it and among each other. Using advanced technologies, we can examine hundreds to thousands of features on a single immune cell at the same time. We hope that this will result in new tools to employ in cancer immunotherapy."