The search for unique cancer markers known as tumor neoantigens has become a robust area of oncology research. Along with other advances in technology, neoantigens are reviving hope that personalized cancer vaccines tailored to a patient’s tumor can quell cancer for an extended period of time, and do so with fewer side effects.
To accelerate discoveries in this area, the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) launched the Tumor Neoantigen Selection Alliance in fall of 2016. This global bioinformatics collaborative includes scientists from more than 35 of the leading neoantigen research groups in academia, nonprofit and industry. Renowned open science nonprofit, Sage Bionetworks, is managing the bioinformatics and data analysis.
The goal is to find the best algorithms to predict which cancer neoantigens encoded in DNA and RNA can be recognized by and stimulate an immune response. Better predictive algorithms for finding neoantigens could allow scientists to create more cancer immunotherapy treatments tailored to each patient.
Initially, the project will focus on advanced melanoma, colorectal cancer and non-small cell lung cancer.
HOW THE RESEARCH WILL BE CONDUCTED
Samples from cancerous and normal human tissue and blood will be sequenced. Research teams at participating institutions will be provided the DNA and RNA sequences. Using their own algorithms and methods, participants will use that information to generate a list of predicted neoantigens that can both be recognized by the immune system and cause it to respond. Those predictions will be confirmed in laboratory assays that will test how well the antigens are recognized by the immune system and how much they stimulate T-cells. Each participant will be provided with data to inform and improve their algorithms. More accurate neoantigen predictions could lead to more effective, targeted cancer vaccines.
“Bringing together the world’s best neoantigen research organizations to accelerate the discovery of personalized cancer immunotherapies is exactly the type of bold research collaboration that I envisioned when launching the Parker Institute.”
“Bringing together the world’s best neoantigen research organizations to accelerate the discovery of personalized cancer immunotherapies is exactly the type of bold research collaboration that I envisioned when launching the Parker Institute,” said Sean Parker, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and founder of the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy. “This alliance will not only leverage the immense talents of each of the researchers but will also harness the power of bioinformatics, which I believe will be critical to driving breakthroughs.”
The Parker Institute and CRI announced the formation of the neoantigen alliance in December 2016.
Sequencing of the first samples from melanoma patients began in early 2017, with the first neoantigen predictions made in spring. We are expanding the study to include analysis of additional cancer types, including bladder, breast, colorectal, lung and ovarian cancers.