Checkpoint Inhibitor & Immune Monitoring Panels
Immuno-oncology is the study of the body’s complex immune response to cancer. The immune system is composed of a network of cells, organs and molecules that defend the body from foreign substances, and the field of immuno-oncology research focuses on leveraging these immune responses to develop safe and effective treatments against many types of cancers. Flow cytometry represents a powerful and versatile technology for the interrogation of immune cell responses and their effects on cancer cells. These so-called immune checkpoint inhibitor flow cytometry assays utilize the monitoring of critical surface, or intra-cellular, markers to identify different cell types, and their anti-tumor characteristics. An example of such an immune monitoring marker is the quantification and characterization of specific subsets of circulating T cells. This type of analysis provides a platform to better gauge the immunogenicity of the therapy and the ability of the immune cells to successfully identify and attack cancer cells.
White blood cells have “immune checkpoints” that drive cells to either fight or ignore foreign entities. Immune checkpoints are cellular pathways crucial in maintaining a normal immune response and protecting tissues from damage when the immune system is activated. Tumor cells dysregulate these immune checkpoints and use them as a mechanism of immune resistance. Understanding these immune checkpoint pathways in T cells and NK cells is a major focus in immuno-oncology since they regulate both adaptive and innate immunity surrounding the tumor and serve as druggable targets. The main goal in immuno-oncology is to achieve activation of the anti-tumor response through the blockade of negative regulators of the immune system. Key checkpoint regulators like, CTLA-4, PD-1 and PD-L1 are the most widely studied and are being developed as pharmaceutical agents. Inhibition of these checkpoints offers the potential for long-term durable anti-tumor immune responses in specific subsets of cancer patients.
The use of flow cytometry is at the forefront of this medical revolution in immuno-oncology, as an empowering and versatile technology that allows for the development of immune checkpoint inhibitor assays, enabling in-depth analysis of cellular behavior of immune cells and their potential role in cancer biology and effective therapeutic intervention.