ICRF Grant Investigates Alternate Treatments to Immunotherapy
Ofer Mandelboim, PhD, of Hebrew University of Jerusalem/Hadassah Medical School, an ICRF Research Professorship grantee and a past recipient of several ICRF grants, discusses why he is researching new approaches to currently available immunotherapies.
Can you tell us about the urgent need to find alternatives to immunotherapy?
Although immunotherapy has had a dramatic effect on cancer treatment, the majority of cancer patients do not respond to the currently available immunotherapies. The reasons for this are not completely understood. The activity of immune cells is regulated by activating inhibitory proteins. Inhibitory proteins suppress immune cell activity. Immunotherapy of tumors is largely based on medicine that prevents inhibition of the immune system.
Please describe what your team is working on as an alternative therapy.
We are working on the identification of new inhibitory proteins that suppress the activity of immune cells. We are also trying to develop new medicines for these inhibitory proteins. Around 12 years ago, we found (together with two other groups) a new inhibitory protein named TIGIT. We developed new medicines to control its function. Some of these new medicines are licensed to a company that we have established called NectinTX.
Can you elaborate on your relationship with ICRF?
ICRF has supported my research for the past 20 years. I received a Research Career Development Award (RCDA) when I first joined Hebrew University, a Project Grant, and then two ICRF Professorship Grants. The ICRF support was essential for my career. In addition, it helped me to obtain additional grants, such as the European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant and many others.