Our research

Cancer cellsCancer-targeted immunotherapies, both cellular and antibody-mediated, are poised to deliver transformative improvements in cancer treatment, with significant advances already evident in haematological and solid tumours. Fundamental research in the CIIC  is focused on three key themes, each critical to development of such novel treatments.

Research is focused on a small number of key themes which address fundamental issues in tumour immunology: understanding the tumour microenvironment; target identification, disease positioning, and clinical diagnostics; and immunotherapy development. Clinically these efforts are concentrated on haematological malignancies and solid tumours.

Academic research themes

Target identification, disease positioning, and clinical diagnostics

We are identifying and characterising new therapeutic targets, and exploring their therapeutic tractability in preclinical models.

In addition, we are exploring how to best exploit known targets, including determining which cancers and patient subgroups are most applicable. Finally, we developing new clinical biomarkers to optimise cancer diagnosis and also to guide treatment selection by detection of minimal residual disease.

Tumour microenvironment 

The tumour microenvironment can be strongly immunosuppressive, and represents a potential axis for therapeutic intervention, and patient stratification. CIIC members are focussed on understanding and therapeutically exploiting the microenvironment to improve cancer therapies.

Immunotherapy development 

CIIC members are focused on developing immunotherapeutic strategies based on key approaches such as vaccination, chimeric antigen receptors, adoptive transfer, TCR gene transfer, and combination approaches, several of which are currently in clinical trials.

Clinical research themes

We maintain substantial clinical research programmes both in haematological malignancies and in solid tumours. These programmes focus on specific malignancies or therapeutic approaches, involve close collaborations between clinical academics, clinical teams, and basic scientists, and interface closely both with our fundamental research themes, and also with our clinical trials programmes.

Solid tumours

Development of immunotherapy programmes focussed on specific solid tumours where there are strong clinical academic teams is a major focus for the CIIC.

The over-arching aims of our clinical research programmes in solid tumours are to understand how immune responses in patients can affect both prognosis and response to treatment, to define which sets of patients are likely to benefit from new immunotherapy treatments, and develop and test new ways to exploit the immune system to more effectively eradicate tumour cells.

Specific areas of interest include therapeutic targeting of the tumour microenvironment, targeting of immunosuppressive populations, development of novel cancer vaccination approaches, antibody arming strategies, and development of personalised immunotherapy approaches, including checkpoint blockade.

Our solid tumour clinical trials portfolio addresses several of these therapeutic concepts, which synergise strongly with our fundamental research on tumour antigen selection, tumour microenvironment, and immunotherapeutic strategies.

The clinicians and researchers focussing on this area are based at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, and the Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy.

Haematological malignancies

Haematological malignancies are an area of major focus for the CIIC. Our strong translationally-oriented research programme aims to understand how immune responses can affect current treatment outcome, and how they can be exploited to more effectively eradicate tumour cells.

The research grouping, based at the Centre for Clinical Haematology and the Institute of Immunology and Immunotherapy, has been designated a Leukaemia and Lymphoma Centre of Excellence, and focusses both on stem cell transplantation and also development of novel chemotherapy regimens.