Based on a deep understanding of tumor-host immune interactions and the mechanisms tumors use to evade immunity, the NCT develops strategies to re-induce tumor immunity. This includes strategies to modulate the tumor environment, strategies to actively guide T cells to the tumor cell, and strategies to enhance host immunity by vaccination, or by reinfusion of potent effectors such as autologous antigen-specific T cells, chimeric antigen receptor transduced (CAR) T cells, or T cell receptor (TCR) transduced T cells. Fully human, fully immunocompetent tumor models have been developed that help to test such strategies preclinically and to identify potential mechanisms of resistance.
The NCT immunotherapy program is structured with the main focus on enhancing tumor immunity, including the following foci: (1) development of bispecific antibodies for tumor immunotherapy, (2) applied tumor immunity and combination strategies (validation of immunotherapeutic antibody constructs, immunomodulators and gene-transduced autologous T cells on patient material), (3) analysis of the tumor microenvironment, (4) computer-based algorithms and integrated data analysis in tumor immunology, (5) GMP unit (production unit for the manufacturing of peptide vaccines, support of regulatory processes to obtain manufacturing authorization for cellular products), (6) DNA vectors for cancer therapy, (7) mass spectrometry unit to identify target structures for tumor immunotherapy and (8) the program “Genetically modified cells as cancer immunotherapy” for solid tumors. The overall aim is to develop novel immunotherapeutic constructs, evaluate them immediately in a preclinical setting and transfer them into clinical trials. The medium-term goal is to further strengthen the networking of the different units for the development of active substance/target structures in cancer immunotherapy.