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$10M Cancer Immunotherapy Research Fund Launched

Cancer in headline

(PDPics/Pixabay)

26 May 2017. A foundation is sponsoring research grants for computational solutions to key questions facing cancer immunotherapy. Stand Up to Cancer, an organization based in the entertainment and media industries that raises money and awareness for cancer research, is providing a $10 million fund for the awards, which has an initial deadline of 30 June 2017 for letters of intent.

The awards are part of Stand Up to Cancer’s convergence program that seeks cross-disciplinary solutions from the life and physical sciences and engineering to address unmet needs or underserved issues in cancer care. In this Convergence 2.0 Call for Ideas, the group aims to bring together clinicians and biomedical researchers teamed with data scientists to apply computational tools to questions involving the human immune system and cancer.

According to Stand Up to Cancer, large databases are being created at cancer centers with wide variations in types of data  — e.g. genomic sequencing data and images — as well as clinical records, medication data, and patient experiences. Accessing and integrating these data sets, however, are often difficult to achieve. Thus, a key objective of the initiative is to break down silos where the data reside and develop new tools for analyzing data that can help predict the course of cancer in patients and identify effective treatments, particularly those that harness the immune system.

Through these awards, Stand Up to Cancer, hopes to address questions such as predicting responders and non-responders to therapies blocking checkpoint signals that prevent the immune system from fighting cancer cells, and chimeric antigen receptor therapies with proteins attracting antibodies that bind to and destroy blood-related cancer cells.

Other questions expected to be addressed by participants are the relationship of peptide sequences in antigens, proteins generating immune responses, to sequences of nucleic acids, like those in DNA or RNA, found in immune system B- and T-cell receptor regions. Another issue anticipated in the competition is the recognition of neo-antigens, produced from gene mutations occurring in tumor cells, by the immune system.

Stand Up to Cancer says participants may address as well more fundamental questions relating the health of the immune system to cancer, specifically the ability to quantify effects of aging or exhausted immune systems. In addition, issues involving the role of the microbiome in immunotherapy can be addressed, including signals to the immune and nervous systems.

The sponsors expect participants to propose new algorithms and use of data sets from current clinical trials to test new algorithms. Proof-of-concept tests, such as early-stage clinical trials, are also anticipated in team proposals.

Stand Up to Cancer intends to make award 4 awards of $2.5 million each to participant teams to fund research and development work over 3 years. Proposals with the most promising ideas will be invited to an “ideas lab” meeting in the Fall of 2017 to discuss their ideas further. At the ideas lab, participants will be encouraged to form teams to submit full proposals based on discussions at the meeting. The awards are expected to support postdoctoral researchers, to give younger scientists an opportunity to work with senior researchers in the field.

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