At the time the SFB 685 started in 2004, cancer immunotherapy was widely considered as a kind of exotic field not expected to lead to something useful in cancer therapy. The group of scientists gathering to start an SFB in this field belonged to a minority still following Paul Ehrlich’s hypothesis that the immune system somehow can act against cancer. Now, in 2017, cancer immunotherapy is a prominent area in the cancer field, thanks to the success of checkpoint inhibition, and is rapidly growing and gaining impact on standard cancer therapies in an increasing number of entities. The SFB 685 has not initiated this revolution but we are proud to have contributed significantly to its scientific basis, and to have prepared the ground for new therapy approaches that are more specific and might help those patients not responding to checkpoint inhibition. These are still the majority of all cancer patients.The program of the SFB 685 called for translation of molecular basic research into clinical application. Indeed, this avenue has been followed, and several clinical trials have been performed or are underway at the conclusion of the SFB. These clinical studies are all run and financed externally, but SFB members and SFB knowledge have been instrumental in their realization. Some have been pursued by spin-offs at the University, others at academic levels, covering peptide and mRNA vaccinations, antibody therapies and adoptive cell transfer. New phase I/II trials are in preparation for 2018, based on the experiences gained so far, and with the promise of being more efficient. On the basic side, the SFB was successful in several areas: HLA ligandomics, senescence, inflammation, innate immunity, immunoinformatics, recombinant antibodies, immunoimaging, RNAi-screening, immunomonitoring, signal transduction, antimicrobial immunity. The activities of the SFB 685 resulted in important structural achievements. First of all, the participation of Tübingen as one of the eight members in the German Cancer Consortium (DKTK) would not have been possible without this SFB. Tübingen is leading the DKTK cancer immunotherapy program. During the course of the SFB, a further spin-off, Synimmune, was founded by SFB members, and is now running a phase I clinical trial with a function-improved FLT3-antibody in AML patients. A new kinase inhibitor, Skepinone, is in preparation for a first clinical trial in hepatocellular cancer. Two new SFB initiatives are in active preparation by former SFB 685 members: Dormant Cancer (Martin Röcken) and Multimodal in vivo Imaging (Bernd Pichler). Two excellence clusters that have reached the 2018 round are led by former SFB 685 members: iFIT (Image-Guided and Functionally-Instructed Tumor Therapies) by Lars Zender and CMFI (Controlling Microbes to Fight Infections) by Andreas Peschel.
June 2018, Hans-Georg Rammensee
(Spokesperson SFB 685)