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Helen McGuire: Development of a novel test to predict clinical response to checkpoint therapy in lung cancer and mesothelioma

RESEARCH TYPE
T1
PROGRAM
Flagship 2 Pilot and Seed
TAGS
    Immunotherapy
    New therapies and diagnostics
    Lung cancer
    Mesothelioma
STATUS
In Progress

Immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy has provided new hope to cancer patients whose tumours have resisted conventional therapy. One of the most recent success stories has been effective treatment of advanced lung cancer and mesothelioma. However only a minority of patients respond, and side effects can occasionally be severe. We will develop a test to identify which patients will respond, using a blood sample taken before therapy. Our research uses a cutting-edge technology, mass cytometry, which provides a very detailed analysis of each patient's immune system and predicts their future immune response to checkpoint therapy. Having an accurate test will allow us to treat those patients who will benefit, while saving those who will not from unwanted therapy with its attendant side effects.

Pilot and Seed Funding Awarded:

  • CIA: Helen McGuire
  • Member Group: Centenary
  • Year and Duration: 2017 for 12months
  • Amount: $50,000

Q&A with Helen:

What was the catalyst to you researching this topic right now?

Previous studies in our lab showed that profiling immune subsets in patients with autoimmune disease revealed highly stable shared characteristic features. We reasoned that cancer patients could also share immune profile hallmarks that may align with treatment success with checkpoint therapy.

Why will this investigation be important in the field of translational research?

In this pilot study, we are using a new technology, mass cytometry, to analyse blood samples from patients with thoracic malignancies undergoing treatment with anti-PD-1 antibodies. The results from this analysis will be combined with clinical data, including determination of clinical response to therapy, in order to generate bioinformatic signatures that identify patients who do, or do not, respond. The ability of these signatures to predict patient response to anti-PD-1 therapy will then be tested in later studies with a larger patient cohort (outside the funding requested in this application). This project thus has the potential both to feed back to basic research into the mechanisms of anti-PD-1 therapy (T1), and forward into the development of new laboratory tests and guidelines for selection of patients to undergo anti-PD-1 therapy (T2). It will also be the first study to demonstrate the utility of blood immune analysis as a predictive test in cancer immunotherapy, paving the way for future development of this application in many different cancers and therapies.

If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you be?

Since my birthday is this month, I wouldn't want to be anywhere except Sydney, around all my family and friends to enjoy many many birthday celebrations.

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