Doctoral fellow, department of Diagnostic Sciences (Faculty of Medicine and Health)
Principal investigator: prof. Bart Vandekerckhove (MD, PhD)
Recently, the lab of Bart Vandekerckhove created the MIDRIXNEO vaccine, that uses neoantigens to arm the immune system against NSCLC cancers. Although this treatment has proven to be effective during a clinical trial, vaccine production is limited by the properties of neoantigens. Neoantigens are studied in the exome (~2% of the genome), limiting their discovery, and are often patient specific. Therefore a new vaccine needs to be produced for every patient which severely increases both the cost of vaccine production and waiting periods for patients.
To further improve this vaccine, my project focusses on a new type of antigens. Aberrantly expressed antigens, which originate from the non-coding regions of the genome, are transcribed and translated in tumor cells but not in healthy cells. Besides originating from the entire genome and thus allowing significant expansion of the search space, these antigens have been proven to be patient shared, which could allow the construction of an off-the-shelf vaccine, or increase the number of target antigens for the current vaccine. Here, we aim to construct a bioinformatics pipeline based on different -omics fields in order to identify these aberrantly expressed antigens, after which their immunotherapeutic potential will be evaluated both in vitro, and during a clinical trial. With this project we hope to gain new insights in this type of antigen, and improve currently available treatments for patients with NSCLC.