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Divide and conquer: using patient-derived tumour organoids to dissect intra-tumour immune heterogeneity of non-small cell lung cancer


Immune checkpoint blockade (ICB) has revolutionised treatment of patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), but is effective in only ~20% of patients. Anti-tumour immunity is highly heterogeneous within tumours, and intra-tumour heterogeneity (ITH) is a major driver for treatment resistance. However, the mechanistic basis of intra-tumour immune heterogeneity (ITIH) is unclear, largely due to the absence of appropriate functional models.

Here, I aim to identify the genetic or transcriptomic drivers of ITIH, and their impact on immune surveillance and control. I have recently developed an organoid – T-cell co-culture system that I will use to generate personalised models of ITIH. Leveraging the TRACERx lung cancer evolution study, I will establish multiple clonal organoid lines from the same tumour from NSCLC multi-region biopsies. Each organoid subline will be co-cultured with autologous T-cells to evaluate how they differ in sensitivity to T-cells. For each patient, the 6 most sensitive and 6 most resistant sublines will be used for DNA and RNA sequencing to identify mutations (including neo-antigens), copy number alterations and differentially expressed genes associated with resistance to T-cells. Candidate subclonal immune evasion factors will be validated in organoids by CRISPR-Cas9. I will prioritise genes by cross-referencing with genes associated with immune-cold regions in the TRACERx cohort. I will also perform pooled enrichment screens as a less biased approach.

The integration of novel organoid technology with ‘big data’ from TRACERx allows moving beyond merely descriptive studies of ITIH. This will result in the most fine-grained mechanistic study of ITIH to date.

Call for proposal

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Funding Scheme

MSCA-IF-EF-ST - Standard EF


1 Midland Road
NW1 1AT London
United Kingdom
Activity type
Research Organisations
EU contribution
€ 224 933,76