Pipeline in oncology and autoimmune diseases
We focus on personalized medicine in onco-immunology and autoimmunity.
With our activity-based assays, we analyze liquid biopsies, tissues and cell lines of diverse clinical conditions and gain insights into tissues function and activity.
Clinical applications include the identification of novel biomarkers for early detection, the prediction of drug sensitivity and disease prognosis, elucidation of the mechanism of action of drugs in development, and the identification of novel therapeutic targets.
Multiple Myeloma is a haematological malignancy caused by malignant transformation of B-lymphocytes into pathological clonal plasma cells that accumulate mainly in the bone marrow and in other tissues and organs, leading to substantial morbidity and mortality characterized by end organ damage – renal impairment, hypercalcemia, lytic bony lesions, and anemia.
Proteasome inhibition has emerged as an important therapeutic strategy in Multiple Myeloma, and has contributed substantially to the observed improvement in patients survival over the past decade. However, a large proportion of patients do not achieve sufficient clinical response, and biomarkers for prediction of drug responsiveness remain major challenge in Multiple Myeloma.
We analyze bone marrow aspirates of Multiple Myeloma patients and realize novel biomarkers as companion diagnostics for the prediction of response to Proteasome inhibitors, and novel targets/pathways which may be targeted to sensitize response to treatment.
Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE)
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a chronic autoimmune disease involving many organs including the skin, joints, kidneys, lungs, central nervous system, and blood system. SLE is characterized by remissions (no symptoms, "controlled" disease) and unpredictable and debilitating flares (clinical symptoms, "active" disease). SLE patients may experience an average of 1.8 disease flares annually, which pose a significant unmet clinical need as they often occur without apparent cause. Available drugs are able to control flares and manage the clinical symptoms, but unfortunately, patients are often present with flares too late, when the clinical symptoms are already apparent and organ damage exists. Treating a flare which is already clinically apparent requires an aggressive adjustment of medications to counter the immune system storm, thus exposing the patient to higher dosages of drugs and associated significant side effects. In addition, SLE flares pose high economic burden on society. There is currently no way to predict flares in SLE patients.
We analyze liquid biopsies of SLE patients generating novel biomarkers that can detect and monitor disease activity of SLE patients and serve as the basis for the development of novel treatments.
We develop the first prognostic kit that allows, in a fast and accessible way, the prediction and potentially prevention of flares in SLE patients in point-of-care settings, thus improving the clinical outcome of SLE patients and decreasing healthcare costs.
Melanoma and Immunotherapy
Melanoma is a cancer arising from the malignant transformation of melanocytes, the pigment-producing cells, mostly in the epidermis, but also in other pigment-containing sites such as the eyes. The overall 5-year survival rate of melanoma patients is 91.8%, but drops to only 10-15% in Metastatic melanoma, or stage IV melanoma patients. The incidence of melanoma around the world has been rising annually.
Several types of immunotherapy and specifically Immune checkpoint immunomodulators have shown promise in treating advanced melanomas, and in recent years, few checkpoint immunomodulators drugs, including anti CTLA-4 Ipilimumab and anti PD-1 Pembrolizumab and Nivolumab were approved for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. Although promising results in some patients, this strategy has not met the high expectations and many patients do not benefit the use of the drugs. In addition, these drugs are associated with adverse side effects and their extremely high cost creates a financial load on the patient and the healthcare provider.
We analyze liquid biopsies of Melanoma patients and realize novel biomarkers as companion diagnostics that can predict the response to immunotherapy and serve as the basis for the development of novel treatments.