March 8, 2021

Arvind Rao: Published in Nature Cancer

New map of the immune landscape in pancreatic cancer could guide future personalized immunotherapy treatments.

The analysis highlights the diversity of immune response in pancreatic cancer, and points toward the need for treatments tailored to individual patients.

Stubbornly, frustratingly, pancreatic cancer has remained resistant to immunotherapies that are revolutionizing the treatment of many types of cancer.

A new study led by the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center combined single-cell RNA sequencing with two other investigative techniques to create what is believed to be the most robust and detailed portrait to date of the network of interactions that suppress the body’s immune response in and around pancreatic tumors.

The team’s findings, which appear in the journal Nature Cancer, put a new spotlight on the large degree to which immune response varies from patient to patient and tumor to tumor — which will need to be taken into account as new immunotherapy combinations are developed against the deadly disease.

Years in the making, the study represents the effort of nearly 40 U-M clinicians and bench scientists working closely together to develop a trove of data that research groups in the field can draw upon for years to come, the team says.

Along with single-cell analysis, the group employed high-definition multiplex immunofluorescence and mass cytometry — which combines mass spectrometry and flow cytometry — to evaluate the complex biology of tumor samples in multiple ways.One key finding of the study was a new potential biomarker that showed up in the bloodstream of a subset of patients with pancreatic cancer — an immune receptor called TIGIT (for T cell immunoreceptor with Ig and ITIM domains.)

Arvind Rao, Ph.D.

Arvind Rao, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Computational Medicine & Bioinformatics
Associate Professor, Radiation Oncology