In May 2021, the Milner Institute launched a rapid response data analysis call, led by Dr Rebecca Harris and Dr Namshik Han. The call sought collaborative project proposals from CRUK Cambridge Centre researchers and clinicians with multiomic oncology data sets that would benefit from interrogation using advanced computational research approaches including machine learning.

Two complementary projects were selected, each focusing on different aspects of renal cell carcinoma:

Dr Tom Mitchell (Wellcome Sanger Institute/Addenbrooke’s Hospital/Department of Surgery and member of the Urological Malignancies Programme) led one of the projects, which had a focus on uncovering pathways that allow tumours to escape the physical and immune constraints of their microenvironment. The project aimed to identify potential therapeutic targets that might slow tumour growth at the tumour interface or that might shift the balance of immunogenicity away from immune tolerance.

The second project, led by Dr Sarah Welsh (Department of Surgery and Urological Malignancies Programme Co-Lead), focused on the evaluation of TKI response in renal cancers, using datasets generated from the NAXIVA trial. The key objectives were to integrate data sets to 1) identify a signature of response to axitinib in clear cell renal cell carcinoma. 2) to provide biological rational for combination of axitibib with other systemic therapies for testing in future clinical trials.

Tom and Sarah spent over 6 months working alongside scientists from the Milner’s Centre for Pathway Analysis, drawing upon the expertise of the computational research team led by Dr Namshik Han. As the projects drew to a close, we invited Sarah and Tom back to the Milner Institute to tell us how things had gone, identify lessons learned along the way, and describe how these results will inform their research.

View the short video interviews here.