MedUni Vienna: Focus on advancing immunomodulating cancer treatments

Christian Doppler Laboratory for Personalized Immunotherapy opened at MedUni Vienna

The interactions between cancer tissue and a patient's individual immune system are part of a complex and hitherto insufficiently understood interplay. However, a thorough understanding of this complex orchestration of activating and suppressing signals is essential as a basis for the application, and especially the clinical advancement, of immunomodulating treatment strategies for patients with metastasising cancers. It is precisely these multimodal immunological factors that the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Personalized Immunotherapy, led by Matthias Preusser (Division of Oncology, Department of Medicine I), and which opened today, Thursday, at MedUni Vienna, will be studying, in order to lay the foundations for the advancement of immunomodulating treatments.

"Our findings will make an important contribution to the understanding of immunological factors of cancer progression, thus creating the basis for planning future clinical trials that are individually tailored to the immunological status of a specific patient. Very much in line with the concept of precision medicine," explains Preusser.  

"The new knowledge from the CD Laboratory will enable patients to live longer and have better quality-of-life," emphasises Dr Margarete Schramböck, Federal Minister for Digitization and Business Location. "Using modern biotechnology and digitisation methods such as Machine Learning and advanced genetic analysis, cancer treatment can be tailored to the individual patient, their immune system and the type of cancer they have. This is not only beneficial to the health of individuals but also to Austria as a science and business location."

"Thanks to the support of the Christian Doppler Society, the new CD Laboratory will enhance MedUni Vienna's key strength of precision medicine and our translational research approach, since all partners are pursuing the common goal of developing innovative treatments for patients based on the results of basic research," stresses Michaela Fritz, MedUni Vienna Vice Rector for Research and Innovation.

"The days of non-targeted cancer treatment are over. This is where immunomodulating treatment strategies begin. From now on, medicine will focus on finding the appropriate treatment for each person. This form of "personalised" medicine is part of our strategy at Roche. As a broad-based healthcare company, both in terms of pharmaceuticals and diagnostics, we will work with the CD Laboratory to facilitate innovation at the interface between research and business," adds Johannes Pleiner-Duxneuner, Medical Director of Roche Austria GmbH.

Understanding the spatial and temporal variability of immunological factors

In a retrospective cohort, the researchers intend to use immunohistochemical techniques, sequencing and epigenetic analysis to investigate the characteristics of cancer tissue and, at the same time, analyse two or more tumour samples from different locations and/or at different times over the progression of the disease in a subgroup of patients.  The aim is "to gain a better understanding of the spatial and temporal variability of immunological factors." Supported by Machine Learning, the radiological images of the patient will be analysed and correlated with the tissue analysis results to develop a predictive model for future treatment response.

"The results obtained in the retrospective cohort will then be validated in a prospective cohort that is acquired during the term of the CD Laboratory," explains the laboratory manager. This cohort will include patients receiving "Anti-Programmed Cell Death Ligand 1 (PD-L1)-based mono- or combination therapy, as well as patients receiving other forms of systemic treatment such as chemotherapy, targeted treatment or other immunomodulating treatments. All patients will be treated in accordance with the recommendation from an interdisciplinary Tumour Board in line with the current therapeutic standard.

Multimodal analysis scheme

In a unique biobank, repeated cancer tissue, blood, stool, urine and saliva samples will be taken from the prospective cohort over the course of the treatment period and subsequently investigated by means of a complex investigation panel.

By recording all the parameters, it should be possible to develop a multimodal analysis scheme relating to the individual immune response and its impact on metastasising cancers. This includes the reciprocal relationship between immunological blood parameters (liquid biopsies) and clinical characteristics including survival, tissue-based (immunological, genetic, epigenetic) factors and imaging procedures. It is hoped that this analysis scheme will help to provide the basis for new, personalised, immunomodulating treatments.

Through multidisciplinary collaboration with partners from the Department of Pathology, Department of Biomedical Imaging and Image-guided Therapy, Department of Laboratory Medicine and the CeMM, the Christian Doppler Laboratory for Personalized Immunotherapy aims to develop 360° biomarkers for cancer immunotherapy, thereby improving the targeted treatment of patients with advanced cancers.

About Christian Doppler Laboratories

Christian Doppler Laboratories conduct high-level, application-oriented basic research, whereby outstanding scientists collaborate with innovative companies. The Christian Doppler Research Association is a global model of Best Practice in promoting this type of collaborative initiative. Christian Doppler Laboratories are jointly financed by the government and the private companies involved. Most of the public funding is provided by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Digitization and Business Location (BMDW).


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