Refining the Tissue perspective on Cancer Immunology

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As early as 1909 Paul Ehrlich proposed in the “immune surveillance” hypothesis to use the immune system to suppress tumor formation. While Immunologists always believed in the power of the immune system to fight against cancer it wasn’t until a decade ago that Oncology became aware of the immune systems potential for cancer treatment. It has been recognized the importance of understanding the mechanisms of cancer immune evasion mechanisms to pursue new therapeutic strategies targeting the immune system.

Although the immune system normally recognizes and destroys mutated body cells that could become cancerous, some cancer cells are able to evade the immune system or use the immune system to stay alive and grow. The cancer hold up against the immune system by making use of signaling ways which in normal immune responses counterbalance the T cell activation in order to prevent an overwhelming self-tissue damage.

Suppression of the immune response is triggered by antigen presenting dendritic cells loaded with neoantigens originating from mutated tumor proteins. In the lymph nodes they present the tumor derived antigens to naïve T lymphocytes which are primed and activated. The resultant “armed” tumor-reactive effector T cells then enter circulation and travel to the tumor site. They must then infiltrate tumor tissue, recognize cancer cells and attack and kill them. However, an effective antitumor immune response can only be elicited, if the immunosuppressive properties of the local tumor microenvironment can be overcome.

The tumor immunity can be assessed by histological analysis of the degree and pattern of the immune cell infiltrate in the tumor microenvironment. An immunologically antigenic so-called “hot” tumor is characterized by a high number of inflammatory cells invaded in the tumor tissue and present in the tumor surrounding indicating a potential active immune response. In a so-called “cold” tumor the absence of inflammatory immune cells indicates a lack of an immune response. Some tumors show an accumulation of immune cells at the invasive front but a lack of infiltration in the tumor center.

At Oncodianova we develop antibodies needed for high definition immunohistochemistry of the tumor microenvironment tissue. Our antibodies open new views on cancer immunology in formalin-fixed paraffin-embedded tumor tissues. They refine the perspective on cancer immunology in conventional as well as in fluorescent multiplex immunohistochemistry of modern pathology.

The development of novel drugs targeting the immune system aims at shifting the balance towards immunity. Addressing the right targets or target combinations depending on the tumor type and stage and selecting the right patients who could profit from targeted therapy requires a profound understanding about the interaction of immune cells and cancer cells in the tumor microenvironment.

We develop antibodies for next generation histopathology, where the clinical outcome and response to therapy are defined (inherent to) by the state of the tumor immune microenvironment.