Training and research
Overview on the training program
T-OP will train future experts of cellular therapies by providing them with cutting-edge knowledge on T cell therapies and cytokine effects thereon in addition to their local PhD training. They will have access to cutting edge tools. They will benefit from the supervision of high level international experts such as L. Zitvogel, forerunner on microbiome effects in cancer treatment, S.R. Hadrup, acknowledged for in depth T cell analysis and P. Thor Straten, one of the European pioneers in T cell therapies. The training by research focuses on excellent individual supervision and on cross fertilization of expertise and will be complemented by a mentoring program at network level, in addition to the secondments. It will also comprise international conferences, workshops and career events. Besides training by research, T-OP will shape profiles of professionals holding core scientific skills, mastering data analysis, innovation and manufacturing processes. The Early Stage Researchers (ESR) will be able to tackle career and business opportunities of the rapidly growing cell therapy market.
Training by research
Cytokine support is an important and ever-present aspect of adoptive T cell therapy (ACT) but there is little evidence to define if and when cytokine help is required for optimal T cell efficacy. The complexity of generating and applying ex vivo manipulated T cells for cancer treatment has so far prevented systematic studies in this setting. In other words, cytokines might be required for T cell expansion, differentiation, in vivo efficacy, in vivo persistence or all of them. Such considerations will have a direct impact both on pre-existing therapies as well as on those still under development. There is no consensus as to which cytokines might lead to the best results. In addition, cytokines can also directly impact T cell recognition during ACT but may also play a more dismal role on T cell function when produced by tumour cells or their surroundings for T cell suppression. Importantly, these aspects have not been studied in the context of advanced cellular products where T cells have been extensively expanded and modified for cancer therapy. Such studies would have direct consequences on current protocols and the development of novel strategies. To that end, the overarching scientific objective of T-OP is to leverage cytokine support for adoptive T cell therapy of cancer. T-OP will aim at the following objectives:
1) optimize the production process for optimal outcome (ESR1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7);
2) define novel means of engineering for implementation of cytokine signalling (ESR5, 6, 7, 8, 9,10) and 3) define how to utilize or neutralize cytokines for enhanced cell therapy (ESR11, 12, 13, 14, 15).
Each Early Stage Researcher will participate in one doctoral school with the aim of doctoral graduation. In addition to the regular seminars and classes provided by the local institutions, the ESR will also participate in local soft skill training offers and benefit from services and infrastructures dedicated to PhD students.