Dr Ahsan Akram
Studying the role of the tumour microenvironment in lung cancer immunotherapy failure and developing imaging modalities to stratify treatment.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer related death worldwide, with a poor 5-year survival. Cancer immunotherapy has become a therapeutic option in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) having shown efficacy in refractory disease. However, a response is only seen in a small proportion of patients, with failure or minimal benefit observed in many patients. Therefore, a better understanding of the mechanisms of treatment failure/resistance are needed in NSCLC and more robust mechanisms to identify who will/will not respond in the clinic.
This work focuses on a subtype of cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) which express fibroblast activation protein (FAP+CAFs) in the tumour microenvironment. There is growing pre-clinical evidence these cells are implicated in immunotherapy failure but they have not been extensively characterised in lung cancer. Therefore, this work will utilise primary lung cancer specimens to characterise the CAFs and assess their role in immunotherapy failure. This will be done alongside targeted pharmacotherapy in pre-clinical models and advanced techniques will be utilised including flow cytometry, proteomics, confocal imaging and in vivo intravital imaging. Furthermore, to understand these biological processes in patients with lung cancer and during therapy (overcoming the current problem with static tissue biopsies), novel imaging compounds utilising both whole body approaches (with novel PET imaging compounds) and high resolution optical imaging (with in-house developed peptide compounds) will be developed. It is anticipated that in the future these novel translational imaging approaches have the potential to stratify patients for tailored cancer immunotherapy (+/-companion therapeutics).
Potential collaborations and students are also welcomed.
- Professor Margaret Frame, University of Edinburgh
- Professor Kev Dhaliwal, University of Edinburgh
- Professor Mark Bradley, University of Edinburgh
- Wellcome Trust