A 'rule book' to guide precision combination immunotherapies and to speed up the development of new lung cancer treatments will be created as part of a collaboration between Cancer Research UK, the Francis Crick Institute and Bristol-Myers Squibb, announced today (Friday).
The new £2.4 million research project called RUBICON - a rule book and immune atlas for combination therapy - will map out the immunology of lung cancer in detail.
The study will be led by Cancer Research UK's chief clinician and Francis Crick Institute group leader, Professor Charles Swanton. He said: "Biological therapies, including immunotherapies are set to transform the way we treat patients and the RUBICON study will bring us a step closer to this vision.
"When we see patients with hard-to-treat cancers like lung, we struggle to keep up with the speed at which tumours evolve, become aggressive and resistant to treatment. Our research so far has uncovered many of cancer's evolutionary secrets, opening opportunities for us to develop new and targeted biological therapies, and understand how they can be combined to maximum effect.
"By learning more about immune suppressive cell types - the molecules they express and how stable they are during disease evolution - we hope researchers can start to develop molecularly targeted immunotherapy combination strategies."
The innovative project builds on Cancer Research UK's strategic investment in lung cancer, enhancing our understanding of cancer evolution through tumour samples and data prospectively gathered and analysed as part of the TRACERx* and PEACE** studies, led by Professor Swanton and his team at the Cancer Research UK-Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence at UCL.
Multidisciplinary researchers at the Francis Crick Institute will use state of the art technologies, including deep learning and artificial intelligence tools, to analyse tumour samples and data from TRACERx and PEACE. This will allow them to map an atlas of immune cell activity across distinct tumour regions, and to understand how the incredibly complex tumour immune microenvironment evolves and develops over time.
Veronique Birault, head of translation at the Francis Crick Institute, said: "This project is a fantastic example of the industry and charity sectors working together to support world-class discovery science for the benefit of patients. The project wouldn't be possible without Cancer Research UK's significant investment in research, amplified by the complementary expertise of three different cancer labs collaborating at the Crick. This new funding will allow our scientists to map out the immune landscape around lung tumours to develop better combination therapies for patients."
Dr Iain Foulkes, Cancer Research UK's executive director of research and innovation, said: "We're pleased to bring together these partners of industry and academia to advance this ambitious study. As we delve ever deeper into the tumour microenvironment, we can equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge to take the next steps toward truly personalised cancer treatments.
"Lung cancer is a disease for which there has been very little improvement in patient survival over the last 40 years. We look forward to seeing how new treatment combinations that arise from this study could make a real difference for these patients."
Bristol-Myers Squibb will provide £2.4 million in funding for the RUBICON project.
"Bristol-Myers Squibb is proud to be part of this innovative research initiative. We look for first-class science everywhere and we know that continued progress in cancer can only happen through strong collaboration with scientists, academic researchers, clinicians and patients who participated in clinical trials," said Tom Lynch, M.D., Executive Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer, Bristol-Myers Squibb.
"The UK has a strong heritage in cutting edge research and, through this RUBICON project, we believe further progress will be made for lung cancer patients across the world."
For media enquiries contact Kathryn Ingham in the Cancer Research UK press office on 020 3469 5475 or, out of hours, on 07050 264 059.
Notes to editors
* TRACERx (Tracking Cancer Evolution through therapy (Rx)) is the single biggest investment in lung cancer research by Cancer Research UK. Taking place over nine years, the translational research programme is the first study to look at the evolution of cancer in real time and immense detail. Researchers follow patients with lung cancer all the way from diagnosis through to either disease relapse or cure after surgery, tracking and analysing how their cancer develops. TRACERx is led by UCL (University College London) via the Cancer Research UK Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence and also supported by the National Institute for Health Research, University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre, Francis Crick Institute and the Rosetrees Trust. https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/funding-for-researchers/applying-for-funding/how-to-make-a-successful-application/successful-applicant-case-studies/case-studies-of-major-research-programmes/tracking-cancer-evolution-the-tracerx-lung-study
** The Cancer Research UK funded PEACE (Posthumous Evaluation of Advanced Cancer Environment) study, led by UCL via the Cancer Research UK Lung Cancer Centre of Excellence, is the UK's first ever national study collecting blood and tissue samples from patients who have died from cancer, to enable research to shed light on what happens during the final stages of the disease.
About Cancer Research UK's Commercial Partnerships Team
Cancer Research UK is the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research. Our specialist Commercial Partnerships Team works closely with leading international cancer scientists and their institutes to protect intellectual property arising from their research and to establish links with commercial partners. The team develop promising ideas into successful cancer therapeutics, software, devices, diagnostics and enabling technologies. This helps to accelerate progress in exciting new discoveries in cancer research and bring new treatments to patients sooner.
Cancer Research UK's commercial activity operates through Cancer Research Technology Ltd. (CRT), a wholly owned subsidiary of Cancer Research UK. It is the legal entity which pursues drug discovery research in themed alliance partnerships and delivers varied commercial partnering arrangements.
About Cancer Research UK
* Cancer Research UK is the world's leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.
* Cancer Research UK's pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.
* Cancer Research UK receives no government funding for its life-saving research. Every step it makes towards beating cancer relies on vital donations from the public.
* Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last forty years.
* Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK's ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.
* Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.
* Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.
* Cancer Research UK has extensive expertise in drug discovery and development as established through the charity's Therapeutic Discovery Laboratories and Centre for Drug Development. The organisation also has access to large scale clinical trial capabilities through the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) network.
For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit http://www.cancerresearchuk.org. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
About the Francis Crick Institute
The Francis Crick Institute is dedicated to understanding the fundamental biology underlying health and disease. The Institute's work is helping to understand why disease develops and to translate discoveries into new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, infections and neurodegenerative diseases. An independent organisation, the Crick's founding partners are the Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK, Wellcome, UCL, Imperial College London and King's College London.
The Crick was formed in 2015, and in 2016 we moved into a brand new state-of-the-art building in central London which brings together 1500 scientists and support staff working collaboratively across disciplines, making it the biggest biomedical research facility under a single roof in Europe. https://www.crick.ac.uk/
About Bristol-Myers Squibb
Bristol-Myers Squibb is a global biopharmaceutical company whose mission is to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines that help patients prevail over serious diseases. For more information about Bristol-Myers Squibb, visit us at BMS.com or follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook.
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