Research Teams to Develop Data/Computation-Intensive Collaborations to Advance Understanding of the Human Immune System and Immuno-oncology
PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) announced that it has issued a $10 million “Convergence 2.0” Call for Ideas seeking new projects, building on its innovative Convergence program. Collaborative teams will develop data/computation-intensive efforts to advance understanding of the human immune system and cancer.
SU2C will support up to four multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional SU2C Convergence Translational Research Teams, with up to $2.5 million in funding each, over a three- year period. In addition, SU2C plans to engage informatics science experts, cloud computing time, and analytical tools to support these teams. Team funding will support post-doctoral fellows on each team, providing the opportunity for early career scientists to work with leading researchers in their fields.
This SU2C Convergence effort will bring together biomedical researchers and leading data scientists to focus on DNA mismatch repair and other topics related to the human immune system and immuno-oncology. Datasets containing billions of pieces of information, derived from genetics, imaging, clinical prognoses, medication records, patient experiences, and other sources are currently being created at most major cancer centers. Typically, there are significant barriers to combining datasets from different studies or organizations, and to accessing sophisticated and sometimes novel tools needed for analysis. SU2C Convergence supports computational scientists working with cancer researchers, as well as clinicians, to pool their expertise to make the datasets useful for predicting the course of cancer, the likelihood of relapse, and to cure cancers.
“As a new approach, Convergence — bringing together life sciences, physical sciences and engineering in scientific research — holds great promise,” stated Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, chairman of the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee and institute professor at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Sharp co-authored the January 2011 pivotal MIT white paper, “The Third Revolution: The Convergence of the Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Engineering” which signaled this new frontier and departure from tradition in biomedicine. “Stand Up To Cancer has taken the lead in accelerating this fundamentally different approach, through which the most innovative cancer research is evolving.”
Convergence 2.0 projects may explore questions such as, but not limited to:
- How can we predict responders and non-responders to checkpoint or CAR therapies? Can we predict which patients will develop side effects to these therapies?
- How can we relate the peptide sequences of antigens to the nucleic acid sequences of B and T-cell receptor variable regions? Can we predict peptide antigens from T-cell receptor sequences?
- How do we determine the health of the immune system? How do we quantify the effects of an aging immune system or exhausted immune system?
- Can we determine with some confidence the neo-antigens expressed by tumors that are being recognized by the immune system in an HLA-dependent fashion?
- How does the microbiome impact immunotherapy? How does it communicate with the immune system and the nervous system?
“Through collaboration of investigators across diverse disciplines, convergence grants offer a novel research model that spurs innovation in combating cancer,” stated Arnold J. Levine, PhD, professor, Institute for Advance Study and vice chairperson of the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). “By combining expertise from fields such as information technology, nanotechnology, new material research, imaging, optics, quantum physics, and other physical sciences — often considered outside the realm of traditional biomedical research — with traditional clinical and life science expertise, convergence grants may provide critical outcomes to advance the fight against cancer.” Dr. Levine, as well as William G. Nelson, MD, PhD, director of oncology at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, V Foundation Scientific Advisory Committee member, and who also serves as vice chairperson of the SU2C SAC, will jointly oversee this Convergence 2.0 program.
Optimally, SU2C Convergence 2.0 projects will include a basic science or translational component and propose a small clinical trial to test ideas or early proof of concept. SU2C strongly recommends that Applicants offer existing data sets of clinical measurements from immunotherapy trials to advance proposed hypotheses and test ideas, and to design and test new algorithms. Teams with the strongest proposals will be invited to participate in a Fall 2017 Convergence 2.0 Ideas Lab to further develop research concepts and design. SU2C will explore possible collaborations with computer science researchers involving machine learning, and other advanced statistical methods for analysis of large complex data sets.
In 2015, SU2C and the National Science Foundation engaged in a first-of-its-kind collaboration, to combine quantitative and clinical approaches to studying cancer and advancing therapies. Four SU2C Convergence Translational Research Teams were funded and their research is currently underway. Each team engages post-doctoral fellows who are paired with investigators. Funding and grants from the National Science Foundation, the V Foundation for Cancer Research (whose funding specifically supports the post-doctoral fellows), as well as the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, The Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, and Bristol-Myers Squibb Company support the following projects:
- SU2C-Breast Cancer Research Foundation Convergence Translational Research Team, “Ecology of the Tumor Microenvironment in Breast Cancer”
- SU2C-National Science Foundation Cancer Convergence Translational Research Team, “Rational Design of Anticancer Drug Combinations with Dynamic Multi-Dimensional Input”
- SU2C-National Science Foundation – Lustgarten Foundation Convergence Translational Research Team, “Liberating T-cell Mediated Immunity to Pancreatic Cancer,” and
- SU2C-National Science Foundation Convergence Translational Research Team, “Genetic, Epigenetic, and Immunological Underpinnings of Cancer Evolution through Treatment.”
Details on the “Convergence 2.0” program are available via the SU2C web site at: http://progress.su2c.org/convergenceapplications/. The deadline for Letters of Intent for SU2C Convergence 2.0 is June 30, 2017. Selected applicants will be invited to a Fall 2017 “Ideas Lab” to discuss the proposed research concepts. Following these deliberations, small groups of investigators will form teams, or will be commissioned by the SU2C Convergence Joint Scientific Advisory Committee to form teams. The submission of full proposals will be invited from those selected for further consideration reflecting the topics for investigation discussed at the Ideas Lab.
About the Stand Up To Cancer Initiative
Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) raises funds to accelerate the pace of research to get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. SU2C, a program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, was established in 2008 by film and media leaders who utilize the industry’s resources to engage the public in supporting a new, collaborative model of cancer research, and to increase awareness about cancer prevention as well as progress being made in the fight against the disease. As SU2C’s scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) and a Scientific Advisory Committee led by Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, conduct rigorous, competitive review processes to identify the best research proposals to recommend for funding, oversee grants administration, and provide expert review of research progress.
Current members of the SU2C Council of Founders and Advisors (CFA) include Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Lisa Paulsen, Rusty Robertson, Sue Schwartz, Pamela Oas Williams, Ellen Ziffren, and Kathleen Lobb. The late Laura Ziskin and the late Noreen Fraser are also co-founders. Sung Poblete, PhD, RN, has served as SU2C’s president and CEO since 2011.
For more information on Stand Up To Cancer, visit www.StandUpToCancer.org.