The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life-Sciences
(Bridging between personalized medicine and Immunotherapy)
The recent progress in genomics and other diagnostic technologies have contributed to the emergence of personalized medicine. Concomitantly, we are witnessing the rise of immunotherapy, a kind of biological therapy, now applied to treat a variety of diseases and especially cancer. It is designed to generate, promote and or enhance the action of the body's natural defenses/immune system to fight pathogens or cancerous tumors. Nevertheless, cancer cells may escape from immunotherapy using a broad spectrum of mechanisms and as for every treatment, we come to realize that the patient genetic and physiological backgrounds can greatly influence prognosis and treatment outcome.
With this in mind, Prof. Cohen’s group at Bar-Ilan University specializes in the study and the engineering of the immune response of T and NK lymphocytes against cancer while taking into account patient features such as immunological genetic background and specific antigen expression. Prof Cyrille Cohen has been involved in immunology research for the past 20 years and trained at the National Cancer Institute, NIH, US for 4 years before establishing the laboratory of tumor immunology and immunotherapy at Bar-Ilan University in 2007.
He and his group developed a robust research expertise that encompasses molecular biology, computerized predictions and analysis, immune and cancer cell techniques including studies animal models and collaborations with medical centers in Israel and abroad. They recently demonstrated for the first time the presence of neo-antigen specific T-cells in the blood of several advanced melanoma patients and developed a strategy to isolate these cells. Interestingly, while these patients displayed similar disease progression and symptoms, they showed that the anti-tumor immune reaction was unique to each patient/tumor studied.
Moreover, they are interested in developing approaches that would more accurately predict immune cell reactivity based on cancer patient genetic background. Additionally, they focus on elaborating strategies to generate sets of targeting molecules that will fit, in a personalized way, tumors from individual patient using recent gene transfer and receptor strategies they developed. Also, they are studying the role of individual mutations in tumor antigens and their influence on the anti-tumor response in several kinds of cancer. In collaboration with Prof. Rachela Popovtzer (Fac. of Engineering, BIU), they have been developing theranostic approaches based on gold nano-particles coated with immune activators and checkpoint inhibitors to rapidly (within 48 hours) stratify treated subjects into responders or non-responders, which could further help in custom-tailoring future patient treatment.
Overall, bridging between personalized medicine and immunotherapy, now more than ever before, will lead to more precise and efficient cancer therapy.