Immunotherapy, incl. vaccines, chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells and checkpoint blockers, have produced extraordinary clinical results in subsets of cancer patients. Nonetheless, a number of patients do not benefit from immunotherapy, highlighting the need for strategies to improve its outcome. The INTEGRAL platform (“Integrating a multimodal approach to address current challenges in immunotherapy”) combines the complementary offering of expertise, know-how, knowledge and technologies originating from the VUB ICMI, CMIM and LMCT laboratories, to address this issue by offering tools for combining immune activation (ACTIVATION) with negating immunosuppressive cues (MODULATION), steering drug development (cellular and molecular MODE OF ACTION analysis) and driving patient selection and monitoring of therapy response (via in vivo IMAGING).
Tony Lahoutte’s Molecular Imaging unit (ICMI) combines an affiliation to the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, with a clinical link to UZ Brussel. Jo Van Ginderachter’s group within the Cellular and Molecular Immunology unit (CMIM) is affiliated to the Faculty of Sciences and Bio-engineering Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, as well as to the Inflammation Research Center within VIB, a Flanders-based life science research center of excellence. Karine Breckpot’s Laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Therapy (LMCT) is based at the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. All three groups have a history of valorization-oriented Strategic Basic Research projects, contract research for biotech and pharma companies and fruitful joint research projects. Thereby molecular imaging and therapy based on single-domain antibody fragments has grown to be an important underlying tool.