A periodic list of methods, tools and people driving research and development. Our scientists present 10 tools and strategies helping to advance immuno-oncology

The tools with which cancer immunotherapy has been studied go back to the 1950s, when mouse cancer cells were implanted subcutaneously in syngeneic mice. Today’s much bigger and more diversified toolbox is helping us understand tumor immunogenicity and immunotherapy. The recent approval of immune checkpoint inhibitors shows how far we have come in our understanding about how to use the immune system effectively to fight cancer. Here are 10 current-day immuno-oncology tools and trends that are bringing this hot area of cancer treatment to the next level. The list is not ranked.

  1. Combination therapy. Immunotherapies have transformed cancer treatment. Combining them with other drugs and drug candidates can only expand the number of available treatments
  2. Human PDX models.   The marriage of humanized mice with patient-derived tumor xenograft models is bringing us closer and closer to a clinically relevant model in oncology research.
  3. The microbiome. Going for the gut, scientists are looking at how the microbiome influences responses to certain immune-oncology drugs.
  4. Interrogating Immune Responses. Flow cytometry, gene expression analysis and ex vivo assays are all helping us characterize immune responses in animal models
  5. Bioluminescence. Optical imaging techniques are allowing us to observe how tumors progress in orthotopic models non-invasively
  6. Tumor Vaccines and Cellular Therapies. Personalized tumor vaccines are keeping some cancers in check and chimeric antigen receptor T cells are heading toward a critical milestone in the clinic.
  7. CRISPR. The gene editing tool is allowing us to modify syngeneic mice and cell lines more efficiently  
  8. Triple Immunodeficient Mice. By lacking B, T and NK cells, these models help improve the ability of humanized mice to more accurately recapitulate the in vivo function of human cells and tissues.
  9. Integrated discovery. Scientists with immuno-oncology expertise are on board from early discovery through safety assessment
  10. Photo labeling. There is continual interest in assessing tumor-infiltrating cell—particularly T cells—within a tumor to understand tumor immunity

Contributed by Kelli Davis, David Harris, Kate Kaplan, Tracey Papenfuss  and Julia Schueler