Centre for Cancer Biomarkers CCBIO

Pioneer project increasing the efficacy of immunotherapy

The Norwegian Cancer Society has a new funding program, the Norwegian Cancer Society Pioneer Projects, which supports early-stage exploration of novel and innovative ideas with potential for breaking new grounds in cancer research. CCBIO Associate Investigator Carina Strell just got the news that she is awarded with funding from this program for her project "ImSignal – Mapping active immune signaling in the context of immunotherapy." This amounts to NOK 1.996.000 for the grant period 01.01.2023 to 31.12.2024.

Portrait of Carina Strell.
CCBIO, Ingvild Festervoll Melien

Main content

Two innovative aspects

The evaluation committee emphasizes the need to increase the efficacy of immunotherapy and finds this project to show great promise. They highlight the fact that there are two innovative aspects in Strell’s project. The first is technical - the PLA cross with Hyperion technology, that will allow the platform to assess not only proteins but protein-protein interactions. The second is the possibility that such interactions will be present in non-responders, for example, thus initiating work into potential combination therapies that would increase responsiveness to immunotherapy. Overall, they say, this is an excellent proposal.

Novel analytical approach

Carina Strell is very happy to receive this grant. "There is certainly an urgent need to increase the efficacy of immunotherapy and optimize patient selection," she says. "In this project, we hypothesize that information on the interactions of immune signaling pathways in diagnostic tissue samples is more powerful in predicting immunotherapy response than currently applied single marker analyses by immunohistochemistry. Therefore, we will develop a novel analytical tool in form of a highly multiplexed proximity ligation assay combined with protein-based cell-typing on the Hyperion Mass Imager at CCBIO. This will allow us to spatially quantify immune cell subsets paralleled with a detailed map of cell and protein interactions reflecting pathway activation. The spatial pattern of immune signaling pathways will be evaluated in tissue samples of patients treated with immune check point inhibitors and associated with response and survival. This approach will help us to extend our knowledge on immune-regulatory signaling to the level of biomarker and drug targeting in the context of immunotherapy" she explains.

Collaborators are the CCBIO PIs Lars A. Akslen and Oddbjørn Straume plus Patrick Micke from Akademiska University Hospital Uppsala, Sweden.

The grant awardees celebrated on the stage.
CCBIO, Camilla Krakstad.

Carina was this year also awarded with the TMS Starting Grant for another project: Understanding Early Breast Cancer Evolution in Space and Time (EvoMaps). Here above the TMS Starting Grant awardees for 2021 and 2022 are celebrated at the annual TMS meeting, December 2, 2022.