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Fighting cancer with the immune system

Cancer treatments are now increasingly combination treatments, in which cancer Immunotherapy or Immuno-Oncology (IO) treatments are key components. The aim of this approach is to harness the body’s own immune response to support cancer treatment.
9/21/2022 Author / Anni Turpeinen

Drug-based cancer treatments are now increasingly combination treatments, in which immuno-oncology (IO) treatments are key components. IO treatments have shown their efficacy in cancer treatment and particularly when combined with other oncology treatments targeting the drivers of tumour growth. 

“Cancer Immunotherapy or Immuno-Oncology is a type of treatment that seeks to unlock the body’s own immune system to fight against cancer. Cancer Immunotherapy has achieved exceptional clinical results in multiple cancer types. However, majority of cancer patients fail to clear their cancer. Thus, there is a need to identify novel IO targets and cancer supporting mechanisms that are the key focus area of research within IO team,” says Anil K Thotakura, the head of the Immuno-Oncology team.

New and efficient drug molecules fighting cancer

Orion's  Immuno-Oncology team is tasked with identifying and validating new candidate molecules, developing new methods for drug discovery and produce new knowledge about complex immunological mechanisms. 

We are focusing to develop first in class and/or best in class IO drug molecules to more cancer types and ultimately to cure cancer. 

“We are proactively engaging in scientific collaboration to assess candidate molecules or drug candidates developed by other companies or universities for in-licensing with us at Orion,” Thotakura says.

Cancer IO brings the best of research and innovation together

Orion’s immuno-oncology drug discovery platform is part of the national research and innovation project Cancer IO that started in May 2020 under Business Finland’s Personalized Health Program. The programme will develop new solutions to enhance immunotherapy treatments and support the introduction of new therapies.

The programme coordinated by the University of Helsinki will integrate a significant number of Finnish immuno-oncology projects. The projects will be carried out at the universities of Helsinki and Turku, three university hospitals and one central hospital as well as in eight Finnish companies. The Cancer IO project also includes several patient organisations and the nine largest IO-investing pharmaceutical companies.

“Orion is one of the pharmaceutical companies taking part in the Cancer IO project. We are very excited to be part of Cancer IO project, the academic and industry partners will bring the right expertise into the projects. We are living in exciting times in cancer research both in terms of basic and clinical research,” Thotakura says.