Immune Niches for Cancer ImmunoTherapy Enhancement
Cancer is rapidly becoming the most frequent cause of morbidity and mortality in the EU, accounting for a quarter of all deaths in EU. Without breakthroughs in treatment, cancer is likely to remain one of the biggest killers in the 21st century. Immunotherapy of cancer by checkpoint inhibitors, vaccines or adoptive T cell therapy is coming of age and has the potential to cure cancer, but is still hampered by some major limitations. For instance, Adoptive Cell Therapy (ACT) with unmanipulated or engineered T cells (TCR-transgenic and CAR-T cells) has indeed demonstrated success in the treatment of patients affected by leukemias, but is much less effective against lymphomas and solid tumors. One likely explanation is that we do not educate the right type of anti-tumor T cells. The T cells considered to be the gold standard for tumor therapy have stem cell memory features, but the proper and safe way to generate these fit T cells for clinical purposes is still an unresolved matter. Here we propose an advanced transformative technology termed INCITE, utilizing a novel high-resolution 3D microfabrication technology to engineer a specially tailored microenvironment that will be inhabited by cells central for T cells education in order to generate the fittest anti-tumor T cells for advanced adoptive T cell therapy. INCITE will bring together a transdisciplinary consortium capable of developing this innovative platform by combining state-of-the-art 3D printing, computer modeling, bioengineering, bioinformatics, immunology, developmental and cancer biology approaches, toward the development of a functional immune niche for selection and expansion of tumor-rejecting T cells. The INCITE platform will revolutionize the treatment of cancer patients with ACT, with a profound impact on the quality of life and well-being of millions of people.