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Cancer immunology: case study

Understanding mechanisms of resistance to immunotherapy in head and neck/salivary gland cancer.

Principal investigator:
Dr Robert Metcalf

Dr Metcalf is a medical oncology clinician scientist at the Christie NHS FT, The Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research and The CRUK Manchester Institute.

Dr Metcalf and the team of expert immunologists at the Manchester Collaborative Centre for Inflammation Research are analysing the tumour and immune components within blood and tumour samples using flow cytometry, mass cytometry, proteomics and immunohistochemistry/immunofluorescence to understand the biology of anti-tumour immunity and develop newer and better cancer therapies

The problem

In his clinical practice he leads early phase clinical trials, testing the most recent drug therapies which stimulate the immune system to attack cancer. From this practice, although some patients are gaining long term tumour regressions (lasting years) unseen with previous therapies, the main clinical problem he is focusing on is that only a small proportion of patients (<20%) gain significant benefit from the newest immunotherapies.

Our work

His research seeks to identify mechanisms of response and resistance to immunotherapies and to use deep immune phenotyping to identify signatures which can be used to personalise current treatments.

Combining both his clinical and research expertise in the Hussell Lab, he is studying the interactions between tumour and immune cells in head and neck cancer.

Dr Metcalf brings together the clinical know-how of the surgical team (lead by Professor Homer), specialist histopathologists (led by Professor Thakker/Dr Betts) and the radiology and radiation oncologists through The Christie and Manchester University Foundation Trust Hospitals.

Patients consent to fresh tumour and blood collection during their routine treatment through the Manchester Cancer Research Centre Biobank (led by Jane Rogan).