Inform, Empower, Connect

We were delighted to award Dr Wolfgang Paster a travel grant to present his work at the 20th Annual Meeting of Cancer Immunotherapy (CIMT) earlier this year. Find out more about his work and the CIMT meeting in his guest blog post.

My name is Dr Wolfgang Paster, and I am head of the Laboratory for Clinical Cell Biology at the Children’s Cancer Research Institute in Vienna, Austria. Our institution is devoted to improving treatments and diagnostics for children and young adults with cancer. My own research aims to understand how we can direct the immune system to detect and destroy cancer cells. Our focus lies in osteosarcoma (OS), a rare bone cancer seen in children and young adults. OS has not seen new treatment options or improved survival rates in over four decades. There is an urgent need for new strategies to treat osteosarcoma.

I am honoured to have received a travel grant from the Myrovlytis Trust (who run Osteosarcoma Now) to support my attendance at CIMT in Mainz. The CIMT meeting is the largest European research conference on the topic of how the immune system can be trained or directed to attack and destroy cancer. This year, over 1000 researchers met in Mainz to discuss the newest developments in the field. Many exciting presentations showcased how treatment of cancer is currently being revolutionized through research. The CIMT meeting in Mainz was an ideal platform to share my own research into OS.

My poster “The immunopeptidome of paediatric high-grade osteosarcoma” summarized our pilot study funded by the Myrovlytis Trust with a donation from the Bardo Foundation. Our research uses a modern, state-of-the-art technique called “mass spectrometry” where proteins, one of the building blocks of cells, can be studied in detail. Mass spectrometry allows us to hunt for changes in proteins that often occur when healthy cells turn into cancer cells. Such changes in proteins represent a unique chance for T cells, a type of immune cell, to attack and destroy cancer cells. Our immune system can achieve this because it is trained to ignore healthy body cells but to react strongly whenever cells turn cancerous. Still, cancers often find ways to hide from the immune system and continue their growth. Unfortunately, OS is very good at avoiding the immune system. The work we presented for the first-time mapped changes in proteins in 14 tumour samples from OS patients. We could also show that in a test tube some of these altered proteins can indeed be recognized specifically by T cells.

OS is commonly seen as “immunologically cold”. This means “invisible” to the immune system. Our data shows that T cells can in fact recognize changes in proteins in OS samples from patients. Detailed knowledge of these changed proteins in OS may in the future pave the way for possible new treatment options.

We would like to thank Dr Paster for sharing his work. You can find out more about his project here. You can also find out about some of the other projects we are funding.