We’ve all heard of and perhaps worked with data from The Cancer Atlas Project. Now, with the help of new spatial biology tools, researchers at the Mayo Clinic are developing what they call The Cancer Immunome Project. This is a comprehensive effort to fully characterize the immune system and how it interacts with and fights off cancer.
Today we talk with J C Villasboas, a physician-scientist at Mayo who co-started the project. He’s also Director of Mayo’s Immune Monitoring Core Facility.
J C says the immune system is of such complexity that it took the new tools of spatial biology—tools able to measure multiple biomarkers in real-time -- to be able to tackle such a project.
“We layer on top of the multi-parametric data which gives the cell some kind of identity, the spatial data because context in immunology is everything. It’s like real state,” he says. “And then we try to make sense of the spatial biology itself. And you can’t achieve that level of detail with a single or even two or three biomarkers. You have to have a technology which provides not only the depth but also the breadth of the immune system’s complexity.”
This raises some questions. Will the data from the project be widely available for the community? Are there efforts underway to standardize the data as there have been in the past with single marker platforms? And that all-important question, what is the path to the clinic for the new multiplexed assays?
As a practicing oncologist, J C is excited about the answer to this last question and the unmet clinical needs that will be satisfied: much faster turnaround, less tissue needed, and the ability to work at tough marginal areas.