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The boom in immunotherapy clinical trials: a new TrialsWatch feature

Last year we ventured into new areas with the publication of the British Society for Immunology’s first fully Open Access journal, Immunotherapy Advances. As part of our aim to widely disseminate immunotherapy research with our new journal, we have launched a new series of articles: TrialsWatch. The aim of the TrialsWatch series is to review, discuss and highlight the latest research and advances in immunotherapy clinical trials from specific areas. 

In this article, our Journals Manager, Robyn Taylor, discusses the conception of TrialsWatch, how we sought out leading experts in a variety of areas of immunology by collaborating with the BSI Affinity Groups, and the two excellent articles already published in the journal from the BSI Inflammation Group and the BSI Tumour Immunology Group.


What is TrialsWatch?

Tim Elliott
Professor Tim Elliott

Featuring both reviews and commentaries, the TrialsWatch series will draw attention to the important clinical trials happening within a specific field by summarising the results, innovations and implications of potential new therapies. Negative clinical trial results are also welcome in the series where they contribute to immune-mechanistic insight and future developments.

TrialsWatch has been a key focus for our Founding Editor-in-Chief, Professor Tim Elliott. He notes, “As a fully Open Access journal we are keen to bring the latest news about immunotherapy trials to a diverse worldwide audience including researchers, doctors, health professionals, industry, patients and a growing body of interested public and policymakers. We want this information to be as relevant and comprehensive as possible and so I have enlisted the help of the BSI Affinity Groups.”

Working with the BSI Affinity Groups

The BSI Affinity Groups are well established networks organised across key themes in immunology. As experts within their particular subject areas, they have been integral in the development of this series, providing insights into the field and inviting key researchers to contribute.

One of our first TrialsWatch articles came from members of the BSI Inflammation Affinity Group. The Group’s Chair, Professor Peter Barlow (Edinburgh Napier University) comments: “The BSI Inflammation Affinity Group was delighted to be involved in Immunotherapy Advances, which we feel brings a much-needed focus towards therapeutic manipulation of the immune system and meets a real need for showcasing important work in this area.”

“We were extremely proud to see that the fantastic article on the MARVEL (Mitochondrial Anti-oxidant therapy to Resolve Inflammation in Ulcerative Colitis) trial by Dr Emily Gwyer-Findlay, Dr Gwo-Tzer Ho and Dr Greg Sutton (University of Edinburgh) was one of the first pieces published in the journal and we look forward to contributing more articles in the future as the BSI Affinity Group expands its membership.”

The in-depth commentary from Gwyer-Findlay et al. focused on the MARVEL Phase 2b trial, using a mitochondrial anti-oxidant (MitoQ) to suppress the inflammation in patients with ulcerative colitis. It is hoped that this trial will develop a new target for the disease through repurposing a relatively cheap, non-toxic and well-characterised drug (Findlay et al.,

We recognise how critical it is that clinical trials (including those with negative results) are highlighted and discussed, and we welcome and support the recognition and opportunity for this work to be presented to UK based and international immunologists.

–Professor Peter Barlow, BSI Inflammation Affinity Group

Another brilliant contribution to the series came via the BSI Tumour Immunology Group, who worked with Professor Gary Middleton (University of Birmingham) to produce a detailed overview of a carefully selected set of clinical trials that are currently recruiting or about to open to recruitment in melanoma. (G Middleton,

Immunotherapy Advances journal front cover.What is the future of clinical trials?

“This is a great time to be an immunologist: we’re seeing the application of immunological knowledge to the treatment of diverse illnesses on an unprecedented scale,” observes Professor Tim Elliott. “Immunotherapy is expected to boom over the next decade. For example, it is likely to become the treatment of choice for cancer with over half of previously treated cancer patients likely to adopt immunotherapy within the next five years; and the allergy immunotherapy market is set to double in the same timeframe. Underpinning all this clinical utility is a vibrant world of immunological discovery science, experimental medicine and clinical trials – which is the ecosystem in which we at Immunotherapy Advances are perfectly positioned.”

Following the successful implementation of immunotherapy as an effective treatment option for cancer, immunologists are now focusing on other areas where this type of therapeutic intervention can be applied. Professor Lucy Walker (University College London), the Chair of the BSI Autoimmunity Affinity Group, highlights: “From an autoimmunity perspective I would say it’s a really exciting time – we’ve seen huge successes with immunotherapy in the cancer setting and now we’re starting to see immunotherapy being more widely used in autoimmunity. The success of T cell directed immunotherapy (Teplizumab) in individuals at risk of developing diabetes (Herold et al. 2019 N Eng J Med) has really highlighted the possibility to intervene early and prevent disease development. There’s also a lot of activity around the development of novel IL-2 reagents to promote regulatory T cell function and suppress autoimmunity. The new BSI journal, and specifically the TrialsWatch articles, will be an excellent way of highlighting these new developments to the autoimmunity community.”

I’m very excited about working this way because not only will it bring to light the clinical trials that researchers in the field are talking about, but it’s also a terrific way of building strong links between BSI members and Immunotherapy Advances. –Professor Tim Elliott

How you can get involved

We are aiming to make TrialsWatch a regular feature, creating a valuable resource for readers looking to get a better understanding of therapeutics and research happening across all areas of immunology. We are particularly interested in first-in-human clinical studies, and negative clinical trials are welcomed where they contribute to immune-mechanistic insight. “The BSI Affinity Groups are encouraged to consult widely to agree on the content of the article – perhaps by organising a focused scientific meeting or hosting a discussion group. The articles are then peer-reviewed as normal,” Professor Tim Elliott informs. If you are interested in contributing a TrialsWatch article to Immunotherapy Advances, we would love to hear your ideas! These can be discussed directly with our Editorial team or in consultation with the BSI Affinity Groups.

This is a great time to be an immunologist: we’re seeing the application of immunological knowledge to the treatment of diverse illnesses on an unprecedented scale. –Professor Tim Elliott

Robyn Taylor
BSI Journals Manager

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