Accurate Prediction of Oncological Patients’ Response to Immunotherapy – Another Step Towards the Standard of Personalized Medicine by Israeli Scientists

Accurate Prediction of Oncological Patients' Response to Immunotherapy – Another Step Towards the Standard of Personalized Medicine by Israeli Scientists

A new technology developed by a group of scientists from Ben-Gurion University in Negev allows for the prediction of oncology patients’ response to immunotherapy, particularly the use of anti-PD1 immune checkpoint inhibitors. The accuracy of this test is significantly higher than any other methods currently used. The research results have already been published in the journal Science Advances.

Immunotherapy is a relatively new method of treatment compared to standard chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It is based on the body’s ability to independently eliminate cancer cells. However, predicting the response to such treatment has been a challenge until now. It has been difficult to accurately predict whether the therapy will be effective for each individual patient and whether it is worth investing time in it.

Different types of cancer tumors produce an excess of proteins called PDL1 and PDL2, which bind to the PD1 cell receptor in the human immune system. This interaction leads to inhibition, suppressing the function of the immune system in the tumor area, allowing it to grow unhindered. Immune therapeutic drugs essentially block the binding between these proteins and receptors, thus removing the inhibition of the immune system. As a result, the tumor partially or completely regresses, which is the desired outcome of the treatment. However, doctors have not had the ability to guarantee that immunotherapy will help a specific patient. In some cases, the treatment works, while in others, it does not have the desired effect.

Researchers from Ben-Gurion University have developed a technology based on biological sensors that express PD1 similar to immune system cells. This technology allows for the measurement of the ability of proteins that suppress tumor cells to bind to receptors on the sensors.

During the study, scientists analyzed data from 42 oncology patients and found that measuring the binding ability of proteins is an important prognostic indicator of tumor regression when treated with immune checkpoint inhibitors.

The novelty of this test development for predicting the success of immunotherapy lies in the ability to develop sensors that can measure the binding capacity of proteins targeted by immunotherapy agents. This means that doctors can determine in advance whether a patient will respond to anti-PD1 treatment. This increases the guarantee of therapy effectiveness and eliminates the need for unnecessary treatment for those who will not benefit from it. Consequently, individuals will not waste time and money on unnecessary treatment and, together with their treating physician, can choose a more effective therapy.

Another advantage of this new technology is the ability to simultaneously test a large number of patients without the need for repeated collection of biomaterial. This further enhances the ability to identify patients who will benefit from immunotherapy using immune checkpoint inhibitors.

The research was led by Ph.D. candidate Bar Kaufman, master’s student Orli Abramova, Professor Anhela Forgadora, and Professor Moshe Elkabatsa in collaboration with Barzilai and Soroka hospitals. Currently, the technology has not yet received approval, but the authors are confident that it will change the rules of the game in the world of cancer diagnosis and treatment. It will improve patients’ lives by accurately determining effective options for personalized therapy.

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