Biomarkers Consortium – Chemotherapeutic Impact on the Immune MicroEnvironment

The Problem
Innovative cancer therapies that activate patients’ immune systems against the disease have demonstrated the ability to improve outcomes for many patients. However, these therapies are inconsistent and do not work for all patients.
The Solution
Research shows that cancer immune therapies may be most effective when paired with chemotherapy. This project will explore the potential of these combination approaches to extend the benefits of immune therapies to more patients.


Cancer immunotherapy (IO)—the use of treatments that stimulate the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells—is dramatically transforming cancer outcomes in some tumors types and patients. Several IOs, have generated striking clinical activity against tumors. However, clinical impact of tumor immunity in patients with cancer is still variable and many patients fail to respond to IO. Increasing evidence suggests that subsequent or combination treatment with chemotherapy can enhance response in tumors resistant to treatment with IO alone. Thus, further understanding of the tumor immune microenvironment (TME) before and after chemotherapy is needed.

Chemotherapeutic Impact on the Immune MicroEnvironment (ChIIME) will aid in defining the heterogeneous state of malignant and non-malignant cells and develop a systematic approach to evaluate the TME. The team will utilize single-cell genomics to identify cell populations, determine individual cellular genomic and molecular states, and ascertain features that predict and explain clinical therapy responses. This information may help to determine how to sequence and combine chemo- and IOs, as well as to discover new therapeutic interventions.


Public-Sector Partners

  • National Cancer Institute (NCI)
  • U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Private-Sector Partners

  • Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp.*
  • EMD Serono Research and Development Institute, Inc.*

Academic Partners

  • The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard
  • Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

*Provides financial or in-kind support for this program.

FNIH Contact


The team will determine the impact of chemotherapy on the TME and identify biomarkers that characterize key features associated with either:

  • different sub-sets of cell states within a patient,
  • distinct patient sub-sets present, without or after chemotherapy; and/or,
  • prediction of outcome/response to chemotherapy in different patient sub-sets or overall.

Results & Accomplishments


  • FNIH Announcement (October 21,2019): FNIH Biomarkers Consortium Launches ChIIME to Identify Biomarkers that Predict Response to Immunotherapy in Breast Cancer Patients Read more

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