Professors from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Hadassah Cancer Research Institute at the Hadassah-University Medical Center are leading a European consortium working to develop novel immunotherapy treatments for cancer.

The team of international experts at CanceRNA will focus on “harnessing the modulation of RNA (ribonucleic acid) processing to increase the immunogenicity of ‘cold’ cancers which lack genomic mutations, to exploit abnormal transcripts and evoke immune response,” according to an announcement this week about the initiative.

The consortium will also work on “enhancing the activity of the immune system by retargeting immune effector cells, modulating RNA splicing of key immune receptors and developing personalized mRNA vaccines.”

The team includes international leaders in the fields of RNA research, clinicians and biotech-pharma experts in RNA processing, RNA drug design and delivery, biocomputing and immuno-oncology.

“The combination of experts from all over Europe in the fields of RNA biology, immunology, bioinformatics and drug transport will propel the development of the next generation of immunotherapy cancer treatments,” said CanceRNA co-leader Professor Rotem Karni, who is chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School.

CanceRNA co-leader Michal Lotem, who is head of the Center for Melanoma and Cancer Immunotherapy at the Hadassah Cancer Research Institute, said the consortium will initially focus on treating acute myeloid leukemia, which is related to pediatric cancer, and uveal melanoma, “both of which harbor splicing factor mutations that are generally refractory [resistant] to immunotherapy.

“Our hope is to utilize RNA-based therapeutics to overcome what until now have been key barriers to successful anti-cancer immune responses,” she explained.

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