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Fraunhofer IZI: Virtual twin aims to improve treatment with cancer immunotherapy

An international team started the CERTAINTY research project in December 2023. Together with partners from science, business and healthcare, the project team led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI wants to develop a virtual twin that will improve treatment with personalized cancer immunotherapies in the future.

In recent years, cancer immunotherapies have become another pillar in medical oncology, alongside the classic treatment options (surgery, radiation and chemotherapy). The benefits of personalized treatment approaches, such as: B. CAR T-cell therapy also requires more precise phenotyping of individual patients.

Numerous clinical, imaging, molecular and cell analytical data are collected and processed per patient for diagnosis, treatment decisions and follow-up monitoring. The totality of all patient data within a clinical picture contains enormous potential to improve diagnosis and therapy for future patients. One approach to realizing this potential is the concept of the virtual twin. Certain molecular and cellular characteristics of a person as well as their clinical course data are combined into a digital image and this is regularly updated using a number of data variables. Using comparative data from patients with similar characteristics, the virtual twin can then simulate prognoses regarding the course of the disease or various treatment options.

Corresponding concepts for virtual twins and initial, promising models already exist in the area of ​​cardiovascular diseases. The EU project CERTAINTY is now aiming to develop modules for a corresponding virtual twin for the treatment of cancer patients with CAR T-cell therapies. In the future, this will support doctors in choosing the best possible therapy and also relieve the burden on the healthcare system through the more efficient use of costly medications.

The virtual twin is initially being developed as an example for multiple myeloma (MM), a malignant disease of the bone marrow. It is planned that this will comprehensively reflect the individual pathophysiology of patients who are eligible for or undergo cellular immunotherapies and will be updated regularly. A particular focus is on the integration of molecular patterns into the digital calculation models. Other key technologies include the collection and processing of large amounts of data (big data processing), machine learning, personalized in vitro models and software-supported mechanistic models. Another focus of our work is the development of interfaces that ensure data access and interaction between different physical and digital systems, always taking data protection into account.

Other aspects taken into account in the project include the integration of socio-economic factors that can influence the course of the disease, as well as future applications for patients.

In addition to project management, Fraunhofer IZI contributes its expertise in the field of personalized medicine and molecular diagnostics. As part of the project, the institute will develop digital calculation models that can be used to identify individual disease progression using molecular or genetic patterns of patients or CAR-T cells.

Project coordinator Dr. Kristin Reiche, head of the bioinformatics working group at Fraunhofer IZI, explains: »For CERTAINTY, we will build on existing computer-aided models of human biology. We would like to combine these with novel models for genetically modified immune cells such as CAR-T cells in order to model the individual course of the disease or therapy for patients."

The EU consortium “CERTAINTY – A cellular immunotherapy virtual twin for personalized cancer treatment” is being funded by the European Union with almost EUR 10 million over the next 4,5 years.

Fraunhofer Society, Germany
· Fraunhofer IZI (project coordination)
· Fraunhofer SCAI
· Fraunhofer IMW
University Medical Center Leipzig, Germany
Singleron Biotechnologies GmbH, Germany
Collaborate Project Management, Germany
Myeloma Patients Europe AISBL, Belgium
TriNetX Oncology GmbH, Germany
Masaryk University, Czech Republic
Information Technology for Translational Medicine, Luxembourg
Würzburg University Hospital, Germany
Curie Institute, France
University of Namur, Belgium
University Medical Center (UMC) Utrecht, Netherlands
Charité – University Medical Center Berlin, Germany
European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT), Netherlands
HealthTree Foundation, USA
Roche Pharma AG, Switzerland

Source: Fraunhofer IZI from December 12.12.2023, XNUMX

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