Protagen AG, Dortmund, Germany, a developer of diagnostics for autoimmune diseases and immunooncology, has announced a collaboration with Germany’s National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT), and NEC Laboratories Europe GmbH, both in Heidelberg, Germany, to improve the in silico prediction of immunotherapy response in malignant melanoma.

Cancer immunotherapy offers enormous potential for the treatment of many cancer types, including melanoma. But while such stimulation of the immune system holds great promise for cancer treatment, many challenges remain, including a limited response rate and even resistance in some patients. Also, patients may suffer from severe immune-related adverse events resulting from an overactivated immune response. Both the variable clinical response and immune-related adverse events demand predictive models to support patient management.


Saverio Niccolini, PhD, NEC Laboratories Europe.

Through their collaboration, Protagen, NCT, and NEC will develop and apply deep machine learning to explore and establish biomarker models for relevant treatment-associated endpoints such as immune-related adverse events, clinical response, or survival.

“The field of machine learning and AI has witnessed dramatic progress over the last decade and will soon be a critical component for the analysis of patient data,” says Saverio Niccolini, PhD, general manager of NEC Laboratories Europe. “Extensive biomarker guidance will be required to allocate patients to the most appropriate clinical trial and—after approval of novel treatments—deliver the best therapy to each patient. We would like to be involved in this process and look forward to the collaboration with the NCT and Protagen.”


Jessica Hassel, MD, National Center for Tumor Diseases, Heidelberg.

“Checkpoint inhibitors offer an enormous potential but also provide some challenges,” says NCT’s Jessica Hassel, MD. “Building on our initial collaboration with Protagen, we see this project as an opportunity to address the challenges posed by limited response rates and immune-related adverse events utilizing machine learning and AI. Although to date its impact remains low, we are convinced that from the molecular characterization of tumors to personalized treatment, machine learning will be increasingly important, hence we look forward to this collaboration.”

Georg Lautscham, Protagen.

Georg Lautscham, PhD, Protagen.

“Immunotherapies are a new cornerstone in treating cancer patients,” says Georg Lautscham, PhD, CEO of Protagen. “An important challenge is to understand which patients are most likely to respond or suffer from immune-related adverse events. Protagen has developed an immuno-profiling approach and machine learning strategies to deal with highly dimensional patient data to address this. We are convinced machine learning efforts will increasingly influence the field, and are excited that NEC and NCT share this view and look forward to advancing this approach together.”

For more information, visit Protagen, National Center for Tumor Diseases, and NEC Corp.