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In August 2017, during the inaugural Society for Immunotherapy of Cancer (SITC) Sparkathon event, TimIOs was created to address a major hurdle in the field of cancer immunotherapy: the critical need to understand tumor heterogeneity. Unprecedented advances have been made in the treatment of cancer with the use of immune checkpoint inhibitor antibodies that unleash the T cells of the immune system to attack cancer. These drugs have dramatically changed the landscape of cancer therapy by inducing dramatic and long lasting responses in many patients. Despite these advances, the majority of patients do not respond to therapy.
Leading experts in the field have highlighted the importance of identifying differences between patients with complete responses (disappearance of all target lesions on imaging) compared with patients who have progressive disease in spite of treatment. A key factor limiting progress towards this goal has been compartmentalization of clinical and bioinformatic data sets and biospecimens. Complete responders are rare, thus each institution or company has only a limited number of samples to evaluate, significantly reducing the likelihood of detecting important biologic differences. There is a critical need for a unified platform to assess this hurdle, and TimIOs-SITC is in an eminent position to build an innovative solution.
Our business model will be to establish a non-profit research organization that will facilitate cross-institutional collaboration through public-private partnership. TimIOs will build a research platform to identify fundamental differences between elite responders and non-responders. This platform will involve key stakeholders including technology providers, SITC, pharmaceutical companies, patients, clinicians, and academia. We envision developing the organization in stages, with an initial pilot program (2017-2018) focused on evaluating bioinformatic data that is already available. Our plan is to target large clinical studies of anti-PD-1 therapy that have already been published to pool the largest number of elite responders. For the initial stage, we have developed a budget to cover administrative costs, meetings, data procurement, and bioinformatics analyses. Future expansion stages would require additional funding that we will obtain from diverse sources including not-for-profit venture capital, grants, industry, and revenue generated from intellectual property developed by TimIOs.
These studies are significant to the field of cancer immunotherapy, as they fulfill a critical need to better understand tumor heterogeneity, which is necessary to enhance personalization of treatment and create a framework to develop new therapeutic approaches. To that end, TimIOs aims to validate the feasibility of this public-private partnership model, while gaining significant immunological insight to improve patient care.
The following young investigators comprise the member roster for Team TimIOs of the SITC Sparkathon 2017 Cohort.
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