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Research Focus

Tumor Antigen Discovery

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Opportunity

Finding new tumor-specific antigens opens the door to creating treatments that effectively target cancer while sparing normal tissue.

CHARGE

To identify novel antigens that can be recognized by and stimulate the immune system, leading to improved cancer vaccines, CAR-T therapy and engineered TCRs that work on more types of cancer.

For decades, scientists have sought to develop cancer treatments that target treacherous cancer cells and avoid harming normal cells. Tumor-specific antigens, including neoantigens, may be key to finding a solution.

Antigens are bits of protein that act as cell surface markers. The immune system uses them to recognize what is familiar and what is “foreign,” which in turn helps the body determine whether to mount a defensive response.

The discovery of neoantigens has brought new excitement into the realm of oncology. Unlike other antigens, these irregular surface proteins crop up almost exclusively in cancer cells that grow and mutate quickly.

More often than not, the body recognizes neoantigens as foreign and can, in the right conditions, stimulate a response against them. That makes neoantigens excellent candidates to target when developing new immunotherapy treatments, such as cancer vaccines.

Progress

On December 1, 2016, the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and the Cancer Research Institute announced the formation of the Tumor Neoantigen Selection Alliance.

This unprecedented collaborative includes more than 35 leading research groups from academia and industry. Working in tandem, we leverage genomics and bioinformatics techniques to advance neoantigen discovery, with the end goal of developing next-generation personalized cancer vaccines.

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