The researchers used a method called Repertoire and Gene Expression
by Sequencing, or RAGE-seq, to "scan" for relevant immune cell receptors
from among more than 7,000 cells found in a tumour and associated lymph
node of a breast cancer patient.
The research team's approach combined four different genomic
technologies from Oxford Nanopore Technologies, 10X Genomics, Illumina
and CaptureSeq to build a sort of cellular barcode tracker.
By scanning these receptors simultaneously across thousands of cells,
the team was able to provide a more accurate snapshot of how the immune
cells in a tissue sample are related, including information regarding
which cells could be effective at mounting a response against various
types of cancers.
"The immune cells that recognise cancer cells are often rare,"
Associate Professor Alex Swarbrick, head of Garvan's Tumour Progression
Laboratory, said in a statement. "We have to sort through thousands of
cells to find these replicating cells that may make up only a small
fraction of all the immune cells present in a tumour."
The breakthrough of the study,
published on July 16 in the journal Nature Communications, is the
computational tool's ability to read multiple, full-length sequences of
immune cell receptors, which could help save time during clinical
The ability to find and barcode these rare cells of the immune system
could have powerful applications for precision medicine – also known as
personalized medicine – which describes treatment strategies based on
the genetic makeup of each individual patient.
Precision medicine has particularly meaningful applications for
individual treatments for cancer patients, paving the way for more
effective strategies for prevention, screening, and treatment.
"This method gives us the most detailed view yet of how immune cells
behave in the human body," Professor Chris Goodnow, executive director
of the Garvan Institute and co-senior author of the report, said in a
statement. "Immune cells play a critical role in the development of
disease. This method shows significant potential to help us personalise
cancer treatments to the individual."
The next phase of the research will focus on patients with melanoma
(skin cancer), but in the future this type of immune cell barcoding
could have applications for better treatment of autoimmune and
"We hope RAGE-seq will be implemented in clinical trials, providing
crucial information that will help potential cancer therapeutics get to
the right patients more quickly," Goodnow explained.
Original source: https://www.healthcareit.com.au/article/garvan-institutes-immune-cell-barcoding-technique-could-improve-cancer-treatment