Immune Monitoring Unit

Prof. Dr. Michael Platten

Analysis of active and tumor-specific T cells via ELISpot assay.

Cancer immunotherapy aims at a specific activation of the patient’s own immune system to fight cancer and represents a powerful weapon in the arsenal of anticancer strategies. An immunotherapeutic intervention may consist of vaccination, administration of specific depleting antibodies, transfer of autologous T cells or application of immunomodulators. With the success of checkpoint inhibitors in clinical trials resulting in - often remarkably durable - responses even in metastatic situations, cancer immunotherapy has experienced an unprecedented renaissance. Using detailed immune monitoring several studies have uncovered the mechanism of action of checkpoint inhibitors, which is to unleash an endogenous T cell response against mutated antigens in tumors. These T cell responses are currently exploited for specific therapies including peptide or RNA vaccination or transfer of autologous antigen-specific T cells. These developments highlight the importance of detailed immune monitoring accompanying clinical trials. The increasing arsenal of cancer immunotherapeutic interventions in clinical trials results in an increasing demand of monitoring patient-specific immune responses to translate this knowledge into effective strategies for patient stratification, determining biological efficacy potential escape strategies and identification of novel immunotherapeutic targets. In this respect immune monitoring is pivotal for bench-to-bedside-and-back clinical translation.
Immune monitoring, however, may not only be of importance for evaluating effects of immune interventions but also for assessing the immunological consequences of standard or targeted therapies. For instance, radiation therapy may contribute to antitumor immunity by facilitating intratumoral effector immune function sometimes resulting in control of distant tumor manifestations (abscopal response). Classic chemotherapy may result in immunogenic cell death, unleashing an endogenous immune response. Virotherapy has been shown to work in part through inducing a virus-specific immune response targeting virally-infected tumor cells. Targeted therapies, such as imatinib contribute to inhibiting tumor-associated immunosuppressive mechanisms. And even interventions such as physical activity or diet mediated changes of the gut microbiome may have a potentially relevant impact on systemic anti-tumor immunity. Hence, the IMU’s mission is to offer immune monitoring for NCTbased IITs but also industry-sponsored trials (phase 0-4). In addition to guidance for immune monitoring designs for study protocols and grant proposals we offer state-of-the-art validated and individually adapted immune assays.


Prof. Dr. Michael Platten
Immune Monitoring Unit (G808)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
und Nationales Centrum für Tumorerkrankungen (NCT)
Im Neuenheimer Feld 460
69120 Heidelberg

Dr. Dennis Riehl
Tel: +49 6221-56-35210

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