Immunotherapy strategies targeting immune checkpoints such as the CTLA4 and CD274 (programmed cell death 1 ligand 1, PD-L1)/PDCD1 (programmed cell death 1, PD-1) T-cell coreceptor pathways are revolutionising oncology. The approval of pembrolizumab use for solid tumours with high-level microsatellite instability or mismatch repair deficiency by the US Food and Drug Administration highlights promise of precision immuno-oncology. However, despite evidence indicating influences of exogenous and endogenous factors such as diet, nutrients, alcohol, smoking, obesity, lifestyle, environmental exposures and microbiome on tumour-immune interactions, integrative analyses of those factors and immunity lag behind. Immune cell analyses in the tumour microenvironment have not adequately been integrated into large-scale studies. Addressing this gap, the transdisciplinary field of molecular pathological epidemiology (MPE) offers research frameworks to integrate tumour immunology into population health sciences, and link the exposures and germline genetics (eg, HLA genotypes) to tumour and immune characteristics. Multilevel research using bioinformatics, in vivo pathology and omics (genomics, epigenomics, transcriptomics, proteomics and metabolomics) technologies is possible with use of tissue, peripheral blood circulating cells, cell-free plasma, stool, sputum, urine and other body fluids. This immunology-MPE model can synergise with experimental immunology, microbiology and systems biology. GI neoplasms represent exemplary diseases for the immunology-MPE model, given rich microbiota and immune tissues of intestines, and the well-established carcinogenic role of intestinal inflammation. Proof-of-principle studies on colorectal cancer provided insights into immunomodulating effects of aspirin, vitamin D, inflammatory diets and omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The integrated immunology-MPE model can contribute to better understanding of environment-tumour-immune interactions, and effective immunoprevention and immunotherapy strategies for precision medicine.
- cancer epidemiology
- cancer Immunobiology
- colorectal carcinoma
- cancer prevention
- molecular pathology
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Contributors RN, MG, WSG and MS contributed equally. SO developed the main concept of the manuscript. SO, AIP, UP and RN wrote grant applications. All authors contributed to review and revision, and approved the final manuscript.
Funding This work was supported in part by grants from the USA National Institutes of Health (R35 CA197735 (to SO), K07 CA172298 (to AIP), U01 CA137088 (to UP) and K07 CA190673 (to RN)) and Nodal Award (to SO) from the Dana-Farber Harvard Cancer Center.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
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