Cancer immunotherapy can induce long-term survival. Still, such benefit remains restricted to subgroups of patients. Early identification of those who are unlikely to respond to current PD-1 based checkpoint blockade and the use of more potent, albeit more toxic combination therapies may improve this situation. Based on in vitro studies, mouse models and ex vivo samples from human melanoma patients we have identified a pregnancy-related immune checkpoint that interferes with successful cancer immunotherapy by destabilizing LFA-1.
Jörg Wischhusen studied biochemistry in Tübingen, Germany. During his thesis on mechanisms of immune escape in malignant glioma (supervisors: Michael Weller and Hans-Georg Rammensee) he performed early work in the field of cancer immune checkpoint blockade. In 2005 he was recruited as a junior research group leader by the University of Würzburg where he became a professor for Experimental Tumor Immunology in 2013. His group explores whether mechanisms required for immune tolerance during pregnancy can be exploited as new targets for cancer immunotherapy. He is the author of over 80 peer-reviewed publications, main inventor on 7 patent families, advisor to several biotech and pharmaceutical companies and acting CSO of a spin-off company that emanated from his laboratory. He is also active as a classical concert pianist holding a performance diploma from the conservatory in Winterthur and Zurich.