Professor of Applied Physics
The immune system has a built-in ability to fight the onset of cancer. Cytotoxic lymphocytes are part of the defence by detecting and killing abnormal cells. In immunotherapy, one tries to exploit this property and take immune cells such as these from healthy individuals and give them to cancer patients. This is performed in the hope that they will kill the tumour cells. Increased knowledge of the immune system’s ability to fight cancer would lead to more patients being cured.
It is a challenge to choose the “right” cells for immunotherapy. The aim is to achieve maximum efficacy against tumour cells without causing adverse effects. Populations of cytotoxic lymphocytes exhibit heterogeneity, some cells are inactive while others move intensively and have the ability to kill multiple target cells in a short time. However, there is little knowledge of which factors determine these behaviours. Björn Önfelt and his research group develop new microchip-based methods, in which it is possible to quantify the reactivity of many individual cytotoxic lymphocytes in parallel – and evaluate how the response is influenced by surrounding factors. This technique can improve current methods of producing cytotoxic lymphocytes for immunotherapy. This includes optimising the choice of cell donors for a specific patient and cancer type, and determining how the cells should be prepared before treatment.