SC9: T Cell Therapies: Current Field, Challenges and Future Directions

THURSDAY, 21 NOVEMBER | DINNER 17:30 - 20:30

Room 3B

ABOUT THIS COURSE: The field of Adoptive T cell therapy (AT) is advancing rapidly and with the FDA approval of T cell products expressing CD19-specific Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) to treat B cell leukemias (Kymriah and Yescarta), it has entered a new era. However, significant challenges remain and need to be addressed to keep the momentum. These include safety assessment of target antigen and corresponding CARs or T cell receptors (TCRs), optimisation of T cell fitness, and the search for combinatorial approaches to enable T cells to target solid tumors. In addition to the preclinical trajectory, it is important to roll out these therapies in the clinical setting, which includes steps such as the manufacture and testing of clinical grade vector, development of efficient and reliable manufacturing methods, and delivering the therapies to patients safely, effectively and at a cost that is considered reasonable. This workshop will explore these important issues as we look to transition AT from the laboratory into mainstream medicine.


  • Selecting safe antigens and receptors for AT
  • Strategies to enhance therapeutic efficacy; and clinical trial design to combine AT with standard treatments or other immunotherapies such as checkpoint inhibitors and vaccines
  • Establishing best practice for delivery of AT in a hospital setting; including monitoring and managing toxicities
  • Challenges of scale-up as we move beyond single site investigator led-clinical trials
  • Establishing links between the pharmaceutical industry and clinical centres to deliver AT


Debets_RenoReno Debets has received his MSc degree (1991, cum laude) in Biological Sciences at the University of Maastricht, the Netherlands, and has received his PhD degree (1996, cum laude) in the field of inflammation at the Dept of Immunology, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He subsequently worked as a postdoctoral fellow for 3 years at DNAX Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA (currently part of Merck laboratories), where he contributed to the discovery and functional characterization of novel cytokines.

Reno Debets is chairing the laboratory of Tumor Immunology, Dept of Medical Oncology, Erasmus MC-Cancer Institute (since 2000). He is a certified Immunologist (since 2005), an Associate professor (since 2010), and chair of Academic Center of Expertise (ACE) ‘Tumor Immunology and Immune Therapy” at Erasmus MC (since 2016). Research in his laboratory aims to understand how solid tumors evade immune control, and develop and explore therapeutic strategies to (re-) establish tumor-specific T cell responses according to 3 lines:

  • Develop and test adoptive T cell therapy
  • Understand and intervene with cross-talk between tumor cells and micro-milieu
  • Monitor patient T cell immunity


  • Engineering TCRs and selecting target antigens to enhance adoptive T cell therapies.
  • Developing and testing novel strategies to sensitize tumors for T cell treatments.
  • Performing phase I/II studies to assess the activity of gene-engineered T cells in advanced renal cell cancer, the first clinical study of its nature in Europe (completed); and advanced melanoma and head-and-neck carcinoma (scheduled for Q4 2019).
  • Immune profiling of large cohorts of patients with various tumors treated with standard or experimental therapies. To this end, advanced techniques have been set up, such as multi-color in-situ staining and flow cytometry.