Centre for Cancer Biomarkers CCBIO

Support to immunotherapy improving project

November 26, the regional health authorities Helse Vest announced their funding for 2023, allocating 182 million NOK to 57 new projects, and renewed support to 160 fellows and projects. Among the new projects, CCBIO PI Oddbjørn Straume receives open project support for his project "Targeting AXL to improve immunotherapy: Deep clinical biomarker analysis for precision medicine." The funding amounts to NOK 1.223.000 for the first year, and spans over three years.

Oddbjørn Straume sitting in his office.
CCBIO, Ingvild Festervoll Melien

Main content

AXL targeting in combination with immunotherapy

The primary objective of this project is to define a predictive biomarker signature for response to AXL targeting in combination with immunotherapy. The central hypothesis is that AXL-mediated immune suppression mechanisms drive immunotherapy failure and specific AXL-expressing cell constellations in the tumor microenvironment will predict response. The project rationale is that understanding of the molecular mechanisms underpinning AXL-mediated immunotherapy resistance will offer unique precision medicine-based opportunities.

The advent of immunotherapy dramatically improved the survival of many cancer patients. However, most patients still do not experience durable clinical response. This underscores the importance to identify predictive biomarkers. The Straume team translated their research on AXL-mediated immunotherapy resistance into a randomized Phase II clinical trial (NCT02872259) to evaluate AXL targeting to improve immunotherapy efficacy in melanoma. This clinical trial is now fully enrolled.

Experimental approach

The Straume team addresses this through a state-of-the-art experimental approach comprising 1) advanced spatial-phenotypic (imaging mass cytometry) analysis of patient biopsy samples; 2) cutting edge multivariate machine learning-based computational analysis of genomic, plasma cytokine and imaging datasets to define specific multimodal features that predict patient outcome; and 3) mechanism of action analysis of patient-derived tumors to delineate molecular mechanisms.

New biomarker methodology and real time precision medicine approaches

The expected outcome of this research is a new predicative biomarker signature for AXL targeting, and elucidation of the molecular mechanism underlying how AXL targeting improves immunotherapy in melanoma patients. This contribution is significant as it will elucidate new deep biomarker methodology and real time precision medicine approaches.

Read more about the Helse Vest support for 2023 here (Norwegian).