The Importance of the Tumour Microenvironment in Choosing Treatment Options for People with Melanoma

12 May 2023

The importance of the tumour microenvironment in choosing treatment options for people with melanoma.

Did you know Can Too Foundation has supported 12 melanoma and skin cancer researchers? The research conducted has spanned from discovery through to translation of outcomes in the clinic. As May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we’re sharing some recently published findings from Associate Professor James Wilmott.

A/Prof Wilmott is a senior scientist at the Melanoma Institute Australia’s Translational Research Laboratory, University of Sydney. He’s building a research program which aims to ‘radically change the way immunotherapies are used in clinical trials and how specific treatments are selected for each patient in routine clinical care. The program aims to disrupt the current one-size-fits-all use of immunotherapies and transition to a personalised approach whereby each treatment is tailored to a specific patient’s tumour characteristics and microenvironment.’

‘As a translational research scientist, I work closely with clinical and patient groups to identify areas of need, discover solutions and work collaboratively to implement research to improve patient outcomes. I lead major programs of research which aim to improve melanoma diagnosis, prognostication, and a focus on the implementation of a patient specific approach to selecting immunotherapy drugs for cancer patients.’

A/Prof Wilmott leads the Personalised Immunotherapy Program which is implementing precision immunotherapies in the oncology clinics at the Melanoma Institute Australia. With the aim of developing the knowledge and infrastructure within Australia to tailor immunogenic drugs to individual patients. Work leading to this radical change in patient care was supported by Can Too Foundation in partnership with Cancer Council NSW.

Studies include the identification of factors within the microenvironment of advanced melanoma that are predictive of treatment outcome which was published in the internationally renowned journal of Clinical Cancer Research. The study showed that patient tumour biopsies containing a higher number of specific immune cells, known as CD16+ macrophages, responded better to a combination immunotherapy (anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4) compared with those melanomas with fewer CD16+ macrophages. The presence of increased numbers of CD16+ macrophages in melanoma was associated with a longer duration of time before disease progression occurred. These findings indicate that assessment of CD16-expressing macrophages, in baseline melanoma biopsies, is a promising tool for identifying patients with metastatic melanoma who would benefit from combination immunotherapy. Many of the other discoveries from the partnership are listed below.

A/Prof Wilmott was funded by Can Too Foundation in partnership with Cancer Council NSW, through the Cancer Council NSW Project Grant Scheme (2019-2022, RG19-15).

Where can I find more information?

Further information on Can Too funded researchers, including A/Prof Wilmott, melanoma and skin cancer can be found at:

The original research article:

  • Intratumoral CD16+ macrophages are associated with clinical outcomes of patients with metastatic melanoma treated with combination anti-PD-1 and anti-CTLA-4 therapy. doi: 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-22-2657.

Other research articles associated with the project grant:

  • Cross-platform comparison of immune signatures in immunotherapy-treated patients with advanced melanoma using a rank-based scoring approach. doi: 1186/s12967-023-04092-9.
  • Validation of an Accurate Automated Multiplex Immunofluorescence Method for Immuno-Profiling Melanoma. doi: 3389/fmolb.2022.810858.
  • Distinct pretreatment innate immune landscape and posttreatment T cell responses underlie immunotherapy-induced colitis. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.157839.