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NEC Laboratories Europe GmbH, the National Center for Tumor Diseases and Protagen AG collaborate to improve information integration and artificial intelligence for better therapy decisions in Immuno-Oncology

Protagen AG, the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) and NEC Laboratories Europe GmbH have today announced a collaboration to improve the in silico prediction of immunotherapy response in malignant melanoma.

Cancer immunotherapy, e.g. by Checkpoint inhibitors, offers enormous potential for the treatment of many cancer indications, including melanoma. Although stimulation of the immune system holds great promise for cancer treatment, many challenges remain, including a limited response rate and even resistance in some patients. Also, patients may suffer from severe immune-related adverse events (irAEs), resulting from an overactivated immune response. Both the variable clinical response and irAEs demand predictive models to support patient management.

Through this collaboration, Protagen, NCT and NEC will develop and apply deep machine-learning to explore and establish biomarker models for relevant treatment-associated endpoints such as irAEs, clinical response, and/or survival.

Dr. Saverio Niccolini, General Manager, NEC Laboratories Europe commented: “The field of machine learning and AI has witnessed dramatic progress over the last decade and will soon be a critical component for the analysis of patient data. Extensive biomarker guidance will be required to allocate patients to the most appropriate clinical trial and – after approval of novel treatments – deliver the best therapy to each patient. We would like to be involved in this process and look forward to the collaboration with the NCT and Protagen.”

PD Dr. Jessica Hassel from the NCT, stated: “Checkpoint inhibitors offer an enormous potential but also provide some challenges. Building on our initial collaboration with Protagen, we see this project as an opportunity to address the challenges posed by limited response rates and irAEs utilizing machine learning and AI. Although to date its impact remains low, we are convinced that from the molecular characterization of tumors to personalized treatment, machine learning will be increasingly important, hence we look forward to this collaboration.”

Dr. Georg Lautscham, Protagen’s CEO, added: “Immunotherapies are a new cornerstone in treating cancer patients. An important challenge is to understand which patients are most likely to respond or suffer from irAEs. Protagen has developed an immuno-profiling approach and machine learning strategies to deal with highly dimensional patient data to address this. We are convinced machine learning efforts will increasingly influence the field, and are excited that NEC and NCT share this view and look forward to advancing this approach together.”

About NEC Corporation

NEC Corporation is a leader in the integration of IT and network technologies that benefit businesses and people around the world. By providing a combination of products and solutions that cross utilize the company’s experience and global resources, NEC’s advanced technologies meet the complex and ever-changing needs of its customers. NEC brings more than 100 years of expertise in technological innovation to empower people, businesses and society.  For more information, visit NEC at

About the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT)

The National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) Heidelberg is a joint institution of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg University Hospital (UKHD) and German Cancer Aid. The NCT‘s goal is to link promising approaches from cancer research with patient care from diagnosis to treatment, aftercare and prevention. The interdisciplinary tumor outpatient clinic is the central element of the NCT. Here the patients benefit from an individual treatment plan prepared in a timely manner in interdisciplinary expert tumor boards. Participation in clinical studies provides access to innovative biomarker strategies and therapies. The NCT thereby acts as a pioneering platform that translates novel research results from the laboratory into clinical practice. The NCT also cooperates with self-help groups and supports them in their work. Since 2015, a second site for the NCT beside Heidelberg has been under development in Dresden.

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About Protagen

Headquartered in Dortmund, Germany, Protagen is dedicated to the development of powerful diagnostic tools that aid successful therapeutic development and facilitate improved treatment strategies in the areas of Immuno-Oncology and Autoimmune Disease.

Using its proprietary biomarker discovery platform, SeroTag®, and its portfolio of NavigAID patient stratification products, Protagen is able to identify valuable biomarkers that support the development of personalized therapies.

For more information, please visit