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CERTAINTY: Using Virtual Twins to Improve Cancer Immunotherapy Treatment
Posted: Jan 10, 2024
CERTAINTY: Using Virtual Twins to Improve Cancer Immunotherapy Treatment image

HealthTree Foundation is excited to announce a partnership led by the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell Therapy and Immunology IZI as together we aim to develop a virtual twin that will improve treatment with personalized cancer (including multiple myeloma) future immunotherapies. 

This research project, called CERTAINTY, was launched in December of last year. Together partners from science, industry, and the healthcare sector will work together on this important and groundbreaking approach to improving cancer treatment. 

In recent years, cancer immunotherapies have established themselves as a further pillar of medical oncology alongside traditional treatment options (surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy).

The advantages of personalized treatment approaches, such as CAR-T cell therapy, also include more precise phenotyping of individual patients.

Numerous clinical, imaging, molecular, and cell analytical data are collected and processed for each patient for diagnosis, treatment decisions, and follow-up.

The totality of all patient data within a clinical picture harbors enormous potential for improving diagnosis and therapy for future patients.

Why Use Virtual Twins to Improve Care? 

One approach to realizing this potential is the concept of the virtual twin. This involves merging certain molecular and cellular characteristics of a person and their clinical progression data into a digital representation, which is regularly updated using a series of data variables.

Based on comparative data from patients with similar characteristics, the virtual twin can then be used to simulate prognoses regarding the course of the disease or various treatment options.

Corresponding concepts for virtual twins and the first promising models already exist in the field of cardiovascular diseases. In the EU project CERTAINTY, modules will now be developed for a corresponding virtual twin to treat cancer patients with CAR-T cell therapies.

This will support doctors in selecting the best possible therapy in the future and also relieve the burden on the healthcare system through the more efficient use of cost-intensive drugs.

The virtual twin will initially be developed in multiple myeloma (MM).

The plan is for it to comprehensively reflect the individual pathophysiology of patients who are eligible for or undergoing cellular immunotherapies and to be updated regularly.

A particular focus is on the integration of molecular patterns into the digital representation. 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 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 are the integration of socio-economic factors that can influence the course of the disease, as well as future applications for patients.

In addition to leading the project, the Fraunhofer IZI is contributing its expertise in the field of personalized medicine and molecular diagnostics. Within the project, the institute will develop digital computational models that can be used to identify individual disease progressions using molecular or genetic patterns of patients or CAR-T cells.

Project coordinator Dr. Kristin Reiche, head of the Bioinformatics Unit at Fraunhofer IZI, explains:

"For CERTAINTY, we will build on existing computer-aided models of human biology. We want to combine these with novel models for genetically modified immune cells such as CAR-T cells in order to model the individual course of disease and 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.

The following institutions and partners are involved in this international project: 

  1. Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Fraunhofer IZI (project coordination), Fraunhofer SCAI, Fraunhofer IMW (Germany)
  2. University of Leipzig Medical Center (Germany)
  3. Singleron Biotechnologies GmbH (Germany)
  4. Collaborate Project Management (Germany)
  5. Myeloma Patients Europe AISBL (Belgium)
  6. TriNetX Oncology GmbH (Germany)
  7. Masaryk University (Czech Republic)
  8. Information Technology for Translational Medicine (Luxembourg)
  9. University Hospital of Würzburg (Germany)
  10. Institut Curie (France)
  11. University of Namur (Belgium)
  12. Universitair Medisch Centrum (UMC) Utrecht (The Netherlands)
  13. Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Germany)
  14. European Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation (EBMT) (The Netherlands)
  15. HealthTree Foundation (USA)
  16. Roche Pharma AG (Switzerland)
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union. Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.

Stay tuned as we continue to report on advances within this exciting project! 

The author Audrey Burton-Bethke

about the author
Audrey Burton-Bethke

Audrey is the Editor for the HealthTree Foundation for Multiple Myeloma. She originally joined the HealthTree Foundation in 2020 as the Myeloma Community Program Director. While not knowing much about myeloma initially, she worked hard to educate herself, empathize and learn from others' experiences. She loves this job. Audrey is passionate about serving others, loves learning, and enjoys iced chais from Dutch Bros. She also loves spending time with her supportive husband and energetic three-year-old. 

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