Rhiannon Jenkinson, Director of Science at Charles River, discusses the impact of the Tumor Microenvironment on immune-oncology drug development, and how the immune system can be harnessed to fight cancer.
Rhiannon Jenkinson (00:06): So 2018 has brought the field of immuno-oncology into the public domain with the awarding of the Nobel Prize for Medicine to two scientists who worked on PD-1 and CTLA-4, which are immune checkpoint inhibitors. This has really marked a transition from people looking at therapeutics, which target the tumor directly to considering other cells which are present within the tumor microenvironments. Rhiannon Jenkinson (00:32): So the tumor microenvironment is a complex environment. It consists of many different cell types, including the tumor cells themselves, stroma, and immune cells present in that environment. It's quite a hostile environment, so it's a hard place for the immune cells to work in. It's sort of the cells that are there are often suppressed or regulated and the aim of lots of cancer therapeutics is therefore to switch on that immune response to reinvigorate it and get those cells going, so that we end up with regression of the tumor and tumor cell death. Rhiannon Jenkinson (01:08): So the complexity that exists within the tumor microenvironments provides challenges when we're trying to model this in vitro because of the many different cell types and the fact that they're all interacting together and that there's crosstalk going on, but this also provides many benefits because if we think about how many cells are there, then this amplifies the number of potential targets for therapy. At Charles River, we have a complete offering which models the whole tumor microenvironment, and this provides good information early on in the drug discovery process, because it allows you to make informative decisions around whether your therapeutic is hitting its target. And ultimately, by looking earlier on and modeling these interactions in vitro in the dish, then that can ultimately lead to benefits in the pipeline from getting the drug from early discovery through into the patient in the clinic.