Winners of the European Inventor Award 2019 – Research

Jérôme GalonJérôme Galon

Invention: Immunoscore®, a clearer cancer test

French immunologist Jérôme Galon developed a diagnostic tool that helps medical staff predict the chances of recovery and risks of relapse in cancer patients based upon the strength of their immune response. Immunoscore® uses digital images of tumour samples and advanced software to measure the number of positive immune cells found at tumour sites. Its results have improved the accuracy of cancer prognosis and helped tailor therapies to individual patients.

Nearly 10 million people died from cancer in 2018. Standard approaches to classify the condition still cannot predict the response of individual patients to treatment. Established medical science holds that differences in tumours alone are responsible for differing patient outcomes. It does not consider other variables, such as the body’s immune response. This leads to incomplete prognostics. Unusually urgent cases can go undetected or, at the other end of the scale, low-risk patients can receive unnecessarily high doses of medication, exposing them to hazardous side-effects.

In 2006, Jérôme Galon broke new ground in cancer diagnostics by showing that the strength of each patient’s immune system plays a key role in successfully fighting the condition. To put his discovery into practice, he patented an invention called Immunoscore, an in-vitro diagnostic tool that quantifies the immune response of colon cancer patients at the site of the tumour.

To conduct the test, a specialised scanner takes digital images of tumour samples that are surgically removed from the patient’s primary tumour. Custom-coded software then counts the number of positive immune ‘cytotoxic T’ cells. Since they are responsible for destroying cancerous cells, the more cytotoxic T cells found within tumour sites, the better the chance of the patient surviving. The software then calculates an Immunoscore based upon the number of positive cells found. This provides doctors with unprecedented insight into the both the severity of the cancer, and the risk of patients relapsing and dying in different stages of treatment.

Independent researchers have found that Immunoscore provides the most reliable prognostic to date for the risk of recurrence in solid cancers. It has been approved for use in colorectal cancer. It has shown a 95% likelihood of predicting the overall survival of cancer patients. Immunoscore has also reduced the unnecessary exposure of low-risk patients to toxic drugs. To bring his invention to market, Galon co-founded HalioDx in 2014. Over the past five years, HalioDx has grown to some 160 employees and raised more than EUR 26 million in financing. The company has partnered with medical distributors, including Philips, to share the benefits of his patented invention with more patients.

Born in Besançon, France, Galon trained as an immunologist at the Pasteur Institute and the Curie Institute in Paris. He’s currently Director of Research at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM). Galon continues to lead the Integrative Cancer Immunology Laboratory at the Cordeliers Research Centre in Paris.

Source: EPO