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Improve Life After Cancer: Addressing Autoimmunity


How can we take the fear out of cancer? The answer is twofold: first, we find cures. Then, we manage treatment side effects so patients can go on to live quality lives. PICI researchers are making progress on both fronts with checkpoint inhibitors. These immunotherapies have extended the lives of many patients. However, some patients develop autoimmune conditions like insulin-dependent diabetes, myocarditis (or inflammation of the heart muscle) and others after treatment. We want to better understand why some patients get these side effects and how to prevent them.

Enter PICI

PICI has assembled a powerful research collaboration across 20 academic, nonprofit and industry institutions. Together, we are collecting the blood samples needed to answer the study’s foundational questions: Who is at risk of autoimmunity after immunotherapy treatment? What can we do to manage autoimmunity more effectively?

To ensure standardized, quality data, we centralize the processing of samples and data through the PICI BioTrust. We then study the genetic make-up of patients and immune cell changes as patients undergo immunotherapy. Our goal: to shed light on the mechanisms behind autoimmunity following treatment. In turn, we can understand the difference between autoimmunity after treatment and traditional forms of autoimmunity to better combat it. And, we can identify at-risk patients early to reduce the incidence and severity of side effects.


Since the consortium launched in March 2019, we have collected and processed blood samples from more than 300 patients toward our goal of 1,600. Once we have collected a sufficient number of samples, our investigators will be able to unearth insights about why and how autoimmunity occurs so that immunotherapy can be used to treat more cancer patients more effectively.