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Protease‐guided tumor targeting tools to revolutionize cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Project description

Innovative tumour targeting tools for diagnosis and treatment

Proteases are often strongly overexpressed in the tumour microenvironment (TME), and their active sites allow high-affinity binding of vectors. That makes proteases ideal candidates for tumour targeting, and recent innovations involve small molecule vectors to target TME proteases. Funded by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, the OncoProTools project aims to make a breakthrough in cancer diagnosis and therapy by developing innovative approaches for protease targeting in chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy, discovering new vectors that bind more of the TME proteases, and introducing innovative diagnostics, based on a better understanding of TME biology. In addition, the OncoProTools will deliver training to 10 doctoral candidates, providing them with the capabilities to become leaders in cancer research.


Europe has a high cancer burden: in 2020, 2.7 million EU citizens were diagnosed with the disease and 1.3 million lost their lives to it. This toll is expected to increase further, mainly because Europe's population is ageing: by 2035, cancer will be the leading cause of death in the EU. In 2021, the EC published its ‘Europe's Beating Cancer Plan’ (EBCP), calling for a big push in cancer research. Cancer diagnostics and therapeutics should rapidly become more effective and selective, patient-friendly and personalized.

All these goals are directly addressed by developing better tumor targeting strategies. Typically, they consist of equipping diagnostics and therapeutics with a vector unit. The vector unit binds to a protein that is overexpressed on cancer cells or in the Tumor Micro-Environment (TME), causing the diagnostic or therapeutic payload to accumulate in the tumor. Over the last decades, huge effort has gone in approaches that use antibodies as vectors, but return-on-investment has overall been rather poor. Exciting, recent innovations rely on small molecule vectors that target TME proteases. Proteases are ideal candidates for tumor targeting: they are often strongly overexpressed in the TME and possess an active site that allows high-affinity anchoring of vectors. Members of this consortium have played a leading role in these developments.

OncoProTools wants to force breakthroughs in cancer diagnosis and therapy by:
1) Exploring innovative venues for protease targeting in CAR T cell therapy.
2) Discovering novel vectors that bind to other TME proteases: cathepsins S, B, L and granzyme B
3) Personalize applications of protease targeting: deliver innovative diagnostics through deeper understanding of TME biology.

At the same time, OncoProTools will deliver a training program that truly captures the MSCA values, to 10 Doctoral Candidates. They will be provided with all capabilities to become leaders of tomorrow's R&I in Europe.


Net EU contribution
€ 525 240,00
2000 Antwerpen

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Vlaams Gewest Prov. Antwerpen Arr. Antwerpen
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data

Participants (7)

Partners (12)