Stanford Cancer Institute

Stanford joins multi-institutional team developing pioneering immunotherapy technology


The Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) awarded a $45 million grant to a multi-institutional team of researchers to develop an implantable device capable of providing both continuous immunotherapy treatment and real-time monitoring of patients with peritoneal cancers, and in particular, ovarian cancer. 

The project and team are named THOR, an acronym for “targeted hybrid oncotherapeutic regulation.” THOR is led by Omid Veish of Rice University, and the multi-disciplinary team includes experts in synthetic biology, materials science, immunology, oncology, electrical engineering, and artificial intelligence.

The device is named “hybrid advanced molecular manufacturing regulator” and goes by the acronym HAMMR. It consists of living factories of cells that secrete immunomodulatory proteins and are encapsulated within hydrogels to protect them from rejection by the patient's own immune system. HAMMR has technology that provides oxygen, senses local levels of various analytes, and provides signals to the cells to control the release of their proteins. 

SCI member Nathan Reticker-Flynn, PhD, is the co-principal investigator from Stanford. He says of the project, “It's a completely new approach to the delivery of immunotherapy and takes advantage of a lot of engineering advances to enhance delivery in a manner that has never been achieved for these purposes.” 

Reticker-Flynn says the Stanford team will leverage the university’s expertise in immunology and mouse models of metastasis to perform much of the preclinical efficacy testing and guide the selection of ideal immunomodulatory proteins. 

“We will be testing various versions of the cytokine factories in humanized mouse models of metastasis and selecting the best approaches to induce local clearance and generate systemic immunity. We will also leverage our immunology expertise to provide detailed characterizations of the immune responses and aid in the generation of new biomarkers of therapy response.”

September 2023
By Katie Shumake