Collaborative Research Project: Towards Personalised Medicine in Melanoma: Who Will Respond to Immunotherapy?
The Garvan-Weizmann partnership will play an important role in the melanoma research of Professor Yardena Samuels (Weizmann Institute). Professor Samuels is working to understand how melanomas vary between individuals, with the aim of predicting which cancers will respond to immunotherapy.
Immunotherapies – which ‘turn on’ the immune system and empower it to attack tumours – are currently at the forefront of revolutionary cancer treatment. Immunotherapy based on the body’s T cells (a type of white blood cell involved in the body’s immune system), has achieved remarkable results in some melanoma patients, yet most patients still fail to respond to T cell-mediated immunotherapy, and little is understood about why.
Professor Samuels and her colleagues have already developed a remarkable tumour bank containing samples from melanoma patients who have been treated with immunotherapy. Built specifically for the study of melanoma immunogenomics, the tumour bank makes it possible to explore the processes by which tumors evolve to actively escape the defensive mechanisms of the immune system, and to identify ways to reactivate tumour-specific T cells in melanoma.
Professor Samuels, alongside Dr Andrew Stone from Garvan, will perform whole genome sequencing and RNA sequencing on 80 melanoma samples (half of which responded to immunotherapy, and half which did not) from the tumour bank. This will allow them to identify the mutations and changes in gene expression that may be linked to the disease.
Ultimately, the researchers aim to provide tools for predicting how melanomas will respond to treatment, making it possible to tailor immunotherapies to individual patients and tumours.
Next-generation whole genome sequencing