Immune checkpoint targeting is a new paradigm for cancer treatment. Rather than targeting the tumor cell, this approach targets molecules on immune cells that regulate their activity to sustain immune responses to cancer and achieve elimination of tumors and immunity to recurrence. This strategy has proven effective in treating many different types of cancer and is now a standard of care for metastatic melanoma. The immunotherapy platform provides MD Anderson investigators with support for immunotherapies in the treatment of a wide variety of tumor types and to link immunologic data with the genomic and proteomic platforms.
The platform has three components. The preclinical studies group provides for animal studies to help establish feasibility and efficacy of new treatments and combinations. The immunologic monitoring component provides instrumentation and technical support for cellular and molecular analysis of the impact of therapies on the immune system in order to gain insight into mechanisms of action and to identify biomarkers to identify patients who are likely to respond or develop adverse reactions to therapies. The immunopathology component seeks to provide understanding of changes in the tumor microenvironment associated with therapies.
During the first year, the platform has obtained internal review board approval to collect tissue and blood samples across tumor types for analysis in the platform. The platform is also in the process of initiating crucial clinical trials in melanoma, breast, lung, colon and pancreatic cancers.