The challenge of making the right choice: patient avatars in the era of cancer immunotherapies

Immunotherapies are a key therapeutic strategy to fight cancer. Diverse approaches are used to activate tumor-directed immunity and to overcome tumor immune escape. The dynamic interplay between tumor cells and their tumor(immune)microenvironment (T(I)ME) poses a major challenge to create appropriate model systems. However, those model systems are needed to gain novel insights into tumor (immune) biology and a prerequisite to accurately develop and test immunotherapeutic approaches which can be successfully translated into clinical application. Several model systems have been established and advanced into so-called patient avatars to mimic the patient´s tumor biology. All models have their advantages but also disadvantages underscoring the necessity to pay attention in defining the rationale and requirements for which the patient avatar will be used. Here, we briefly outline the current state of tumor model systems used for tumor (immune)biological analysis as well as evaluation of immunotherapeutic agents. Finally, we provide a recommendation for further development to make patient avatars a complementary tool for testing and predicting immunotherapeutic strategies for personalization of tumor therapies.

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