Every person’s immune system is unique, so are the habits that their tumors thrive in, so how can we rapidly find immunotherapies that work? Our live coverage from AACR.

Scientists have likened the tumor microenvironment (TME) to a garden where the small number of weeds that escape being yanked, eventually overtake the landscape and ruin the potential of a perfectly good harvest. Targeting the different components of the TME that promote tumor growth and metastasis through anti-tumor immune suppression is therefore similar to finding the right weed killer—there are lots of options but no clear one-size-fits-all product .

We have already amassed an arsenal of weapons to fight tumor cells, vasculature, and suppressed T cells using chemotherapeutics, targeted biologics, small molecules and immune checkpoint inhibitors; but a lot  more work is needed to work out how, when and in whom to use this arsenal. While our immune systems all have the same components – T cells, B cells, macrophages etc.—everyone’s immune system is unique to each individual, says Dr. Rhiannon Jenkinson, Director of Science in Discovery Services at Charles River’s Portishead site. “That is determined by genetics, and the kinds of exposures the person has had to different pathogens growing up.”

The tumor microenvironment and what kinds of receptors the tumor is expressing also can determine how well a particular person responds to an immunotherapy drug.

Biomarkers are a way of determining which patients will respond to a particular treatment. For instant, in immunotherapy the goal is to reinvigorate a T cell response because in the TME the immune cells become exhausted. “One of the things we look at is cytokine production, whether the cells are producing certain cytokines that help drive the antitumor response,” said Jenkinson.

To help accelerate the identification of compounds, Jenkinson’s lab uses multicellular assays that allows them to have an early look at how human immune cells are interacting as closely as they do in an actual TME.

To hear more about the model TME environment, view our video. You can learn more about this presentation by dropping by Poster Presentation TB06.06 shown Tuesday, April 2 from 8 am to 12 p.m. on the AACR Exhibit floor.