Driving research, providing support and improving outcomes for patients and their families affected by rare conditions

Dr Wolfgang Paster

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“In our pilot study, we are using modern proteomic methods to directly identify the needle in the haystack, one of those rare tumor specific epitopes or peptides.”

Dr Wolfgang Paster
Group Leader, Clinical Cell Biology Group
Children’s Cancer Research Institute, Vienna, Austria

The Immunopeptidome of Paediatric High-Grade Osteosarcoma

Research Summary

Osteosarcoma is the most frequent type of bone cancer in children and adolescents. Success rates and treatment options for osteosarcoma have not improved over the last 30 years. Clearly, there is an unmet need for novel therapeutic approaches. Cancer immunotherapy, where the patient’s own immune system is boosted to fight cancer, has revolutionized the treatment of certain adult tumours. Osteosarcoma has not benefitted yet from these novel treatment options.

Recent advances in biomedical research have provided evidence that osteosarcoma is recognized by the body’s immune defence mechanisms. T cells constantly scan tumour cells for aberrant, tumour-exclusive proteins that are absent from healthy tissue. Recognition of such tumour antigens allows T cells to directly recognize and kill tumour cells. However, osteosarcoma very successfully employs various mechanisms to inhibit T cells and avoid destruction by the immune system. Strategies, like vaccination, to train and concentrate the immune system on targets exclusively present on osteosarcoma could provide a path to therapeutic success in the future.

In a one-year pilot study, our team of researchers from the Children’s Cancer Research Institute in Vienna and the University of Würzburg will search for the immunological Achilles heel of osteosarcoma. We will use mass spectrometry, a precise analytical method, to directly identify tumour-exclusive proteins from clinical osteosarcoma samples. We will test in a petri dish if these tumour-exclusive proteins are recognized by T cells and could form the basis for future tumour therapies. Our pilot study is an important first step towards making the revolution of cancer immunotherapy a reality for patients with osteosarcoma.

This project is funded in collaboration with the Bardo Foundation. 


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