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Virtual twin to improve treatment with cancer immunotherapies
Time:2023-12-13 17:24:20  

An international team started the research project CERTAINTY in December 2023. Together with partners from science, industry and the healthcare sector, the project team led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI aims to develop a virtual twin that will improve treatment with personalized cancer immunotherapies in the future. 

 

In recent years, cancer immunotherapies have established themselves as a further pillar of medical oncology alongside traditional treatment options (surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy). The advantages of personalized treatment approaches, such as CAR-T cell therapy, also include more precise phenotyping of individual patients. 

 

Numerous clinical, imaging, molecular and cell analytical data are collected and processed for each patient for diagnosis, treatment decisions and follow-up. The totality of all patient data within a clinical picture harbors enormous potential for improving diagnosis and therapy for future patients. One approach to realizing this potential is the concept of the virtual twin. This involves merging certain molecular and cellular characteristics of a person and their clinical progression data into a digital representation, which is regularly updated using a series of data variables. Based on comparative data from patients with similar characteristics, the virtual twin can then be used to simulate prognoses regarding the course of the disease or various treatment options. 

 

Corresponding concepts for virtual twins and the first promising models already exist in the field of cardiovascular diseases. In the EU project CERTAINTY, modules are now to be developed for a corresponding virtual twin for the treatment of cancer patients with CAR-T cell therapies. This will support doctors in selecting the best possible therapy in the future and also relieve the burden on the healthcare system through the more efficient use of cost-intensive drugs. 

 

The virtual twin will initially be developed as an example for multiple myeloma (MM), a malignant disease of the bone marrow. The plan is for it to comprehensively reflect the individual pathophysiology of patients who are eligible for or undergoing cellular immunotherapies and to be updated regularly. A particular focus is on the integration of molecular patterns into the digital representation. Other key technologies include the collection and processing of large amounts of data (big data processing), machine learning, personalized in vitro models and software-supported mechanistic models. Another focus of work is the development of interfaces that ensure data access and interaction between different physical and digital systems, always taking data protection into account. 

 

Other aspects taken into account in the project are the integration of socio-economic factors that can influence the course of the disease, as well as future applications for patients. 

 

Singleron looks back on long-lasting collaborations with clinical research institutes and big pharma providing next-generation sequencing technologies. Recently, their strategy for a knowledge base on MM therapy response prediction received the EU's "Seal of Excellence”. Following on, Singleron became elected member of the GMMG (German-speaking Myeloma Multicenter Group), Europe’s largest clinical trial study group on MM Therapy Development. In the research project CERTAINTY, Singleron is committed to advance the field of single-cell diagnostics in hematology with very significant investments in research, development and partnering on a global scale.   

 

Andreas Schmidt, PhD, Singleron’s Business Development SVP, affirms, “Our multi-omics single cell solutions and sequencing of the full mRNA of single cells will aid identifying effective CAR T cell therapy options as it provides "sustainable" data, enabling retrospective alignment of future discoveries with historical samples. We take pride in our pivotal contribution to CERTAINTY, developing fundamental advancements for personalized cancer immunotherapies: In the context of MM, the therapeutic product (CAR-T), immune cells, and tumor cells will be meticulously tracked down to a single-cell level before and after therapeutic interventions.”   

 

The EU consortium "CERTAINTY - A cellular immunotherapy virtual twin for personalized cancer treatment" is being funded by the European Union with almost EUR 10 million over the next 4.5 years. 

 

Partner

 

Institution

 

Country 

 

1 

Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft 

          Fraunhofer IZI (project coordination) 

          Fraunhofer SCAI 

          Fraunhofer IMW 

Germany 

2 

University of Leipzig Medical Center 

Germany 

3 

Singleron Biotechnologies GmbH 

Germany 

4 

Collaborate Project Management 

Germany 

5 

Myeloma Patients Europe AISBL 

Belgium 

6 

TriNetX Oncology GmbH 

Germany 

7 

Masaryk University 

Czech Republic 

8 

Information Technology for Translational Medicine 

Luxembourg 

9 

University Hospital of Würzburg 

Germany 

10 

Institut Curie 

France 

11 

University of Namur 

Belgium 

12 

Universitair Medisch Centrum (UMC) Utrecht 

The Netherlands 

13 

Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin 

Germany 

14 

European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) 

The Netherlands 

15 

HealthTree Foundation 

USA 

16 

Roche Pharma AG 

Switzerland 

 

 

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them. 

 

Contact 

Dr. Kristin Reiche 

CERTAINTY Project Coordinator & Head of Bioinformatics Unit 

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