VIDI grant for Francesco Ciompi for improving lung cancer treatment planning

The NWO granted Francesco Ciompi of the Computational Pathology group in DIAG a prestigious VIDI-TTW grant of 800,000 euro for his project "Predicting Lung Cancer Immunotherapy Response. It's personal".

Immunotherapy involving so-called immune checkpoint inhibitors (ICI) is a Nobel prize-winning approach to cure cancer. Disrupting the mechanisms that tumors develop to inactivate immune cells and unleashing them to eradicate cancer, ICI have led to unprecedented responses in previously untreatable cancers, including the deadliest one: non-small cell lung cancer. Unfortunately, only one out of five patients responds to immunotherapy, and the other patients are exposed to drug toxicity without therapeutic effect, at a yearly cost of more than hundred thousand euros. Current guidelines select patients who will receive the treatment based on visual histological assessment of PD-L1 and clinical trials have shown that not only most selected patients do not respond, but some of the untreated patients would have responded to the immunotherapy if they had been treated. A better selection method would therefore have a major impact on healthcare.

Treatment response

In this project, Francesco Ciompi is going to develop artificial intelligence methods to design digital biomarkers to better predict immunotherapy treatment response for lung cancer, based on the analysis of multiple immunohistochemical markers of digitized histopathology tissue biopsies.

Study summary

The project will be carried out in close collaboration with clinical partners at regional (Radboudumc, Maasziekenhuis Pantein, CWZ, Elkerliek), national (Nederlands Kanker Instituut, Utrecht UMC) and international (Cannizzaro Hospital, Italy) level, with SECTRA as industrial partner. The goal is to investigate, design and validate digital biomarkers of immunotherapy treatment response, and eventually make them available in the clinic.

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