Some new cancer treatments harness the immune system to fight the disease. However, for most patients, they do not deliver a long-lasting response and they often cause unpleasant side effects. To address these challenges, IMMUCAN aims to study the tumour microenvironment in a bid to gain a deeper understanding of how the immune system and cancer cells interact at the molecular level.
Using cutting-edge technologies, the team will analyse tumour tissue, blood, stool and saliva samples as well as clinical information from some 3 000 patients with colorectal, lung, head and neck, breast, gastric and renal cancers. By comparing patients who are not going through immune therapy with patients who are, the project hopes to build up a detailed picture of the tumour and its microenvironment, and the impact of current treatments. This information could be used to further improve existing treatments and to develop new ones. In the longer term, the project results could result in the identification of biological markers that will show which patients are most likely to respond well to immune therapies, and which patients would benefit from a combination of immune therapies and conventional treatments.