About Us

CANCERNA’s general objective is the development and validation of novel RNA-based therapeutics targeting non-communicable diseases. The project is comprised of complementary activities to assess mode of action, including: in-vitro and in-vivo validation, bioinformatics, delivery, and safety. In the past few years, new modalities of immunotherapy have opened a new era in the effectiveness of cancer treatment. This novel therapy modality has joined conventional cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and targeted treatments as a pillar of cancer therapy. Cancers that were completely untreatable (such as metastatic melanoma) are showing dramatic positive responses to immunotherapy. Nevertheless, the huge promise of this treatment is diminished by the fact that only a limited percentage of patients are experiencing durable benefit from this new approach. For most patients, current immunotherapy modalities cannot prolong lifespan in a significant way and definitely cannot achieve a “cure”. Extensive preclinical and clinical studies have been performed aiming to identify the factors and markers predicting increased response to immunotherapy regimens and types. Mutational burden appears to be one of the most reliable diagnostic factors that predict a patient’s positive response. Theoretically, high mutational load in a tumour will result in the surface display of antigens derived from mutant sequences, called “neo-antigens”, which are recognized by the immune system as ‘foreign’, hence stimulating immune recognition and attack. However, mutation burden is low in many of the most common and deadliest cancers, limiting the potential of immunotherapy.

In this project the major goal will be to modulate RNA processing in order to enhance and broaden the impact of immunotherapy in the combat against cancer (Figure 1): Our aims are two-fold: on one hand, to generate abnormal transcripts of mRNA that once translated will result in neo-antigens that induce an effective immune response, and on the other hand, to generate re-targeted immune effector cells or improve their functionality by enhancing stimulatory splicing products or silencing inhibitory transcripts. By using RNA-processing modifiers and conducting cutting-edge sequencing and bioinformatic analyses, we aim to take advantage of a new armamentarium of RNA-based tools to turn immune-resistant tumours into treatment-sensitive tumours