Read more about our research
Our mission is to uncover underlying mechanisms of drug resistance and to improve treatment outcomes for lung cancer patients. We use innovative methods to discover novel treatment combinations that could prolong therapy responses and improve the overall quality of life for cancer patients. We strive to make an impact in the fight against lung cancer by cutting edge research & collaboration.
Living biobank for lung cancer
When a patient undergoes lung cancer surgery and has given their consent, we collect a small piece of the resected tumor. From these tissue pieces, we isolate different cell types and grow them in three-dimensional (3D) cell cultures. The cancer cells form mini-tumors ("organoids") which we can study to better understand tumor behaviour. Organoids are preferrable over traditional two-dimensional (2D) cancer cell cultures because they better reflect the microenvironment inside a human being, and cancer’s response to medications. The organoids are genetically tested so we know which mutations are present in the cancer of each patient. We are screening the organoid models with 100+ drugs, and try to understand if lung cancers with certain mutations could be treated more effectively in the future using novel drugs or drug combinations. We also build "complex organoids" comprising of multiple different cell types of the patient, which could better mimic the cancer complexity in a patient.
Immuno-oncology resistance screening
Immunotherapy activates the patient's own immune defence to fight against cancer.
Despite the remarkable success of immunotherapy in treating some cancers, many patients experience resistance to these treatments, highlighting the need to further investigate the underlying primary immunotherapy resistance mechanisms. Using the patient's own cells, we perform genomic CRISPR screening to identify which genes are involved in making the cancer cells resistant to immunotherapy. Our ultimate goal is to better understand the genetic mechanisms of immunotherapy resistance and develop more effective combination treatments for lung cancer.
Mimicking antitumor immunity on a chip
Immunotherapies have been life-changing and even helped to cure some patients, yet it’s still unclear why only a fraction of patients respond. Thus it is difficult for oncologists to know whether or not to prescribe these expensive treatments. To solve these issues, we are working to create a tumour-on-a-chip model to mimick the patient antitumour immunity. Our platform combines the patient’s own cancer and immune cells and could help to functionally predict the patient’s immunotherapy response in the future. The aim of this study is to create a tool that would help oncologists to prescribe the right treatment, increase the number of patients benefiting from cancer immunotherapies, and to enhance the cost efficiency of cancer care.
Heterogeneity affects the tumor microenvironment
In our recent study, we found that tumor heterogeneity can modify the tumor microenvironment in a way that potentiates tumor regrowth during targeted therapy. In particular, surviving cancer cells are able to modify the tumor niche by secreting immunosuppressive cytokines and recruiting cancer-associated fibroblasts, which in turn contributes to the development of a drug-tolerant tumor microenvironment. This underscores the importance of developing more effective treatment strategies for patients, especially for those who are treated with targeted therapies. By understanding the complex interactions between cancer cells and the microenvironment in which they reside, we can identify new targets for therapy and ultimately improve patient outcomes. We are currently discovering combination therapies that can effectively combat the intratumor heterogeneity & drug resistance in cancer.