Christiane Lieners-Reger and Yannick Lieners from “Plooschter Projet asbl” with Dr Etienne Moussay (right)

Christiane Lieners-Reger and Yannick Lieners from “Plooschter Projet asbl” with Dr Etienne Moussay (right)

The Luxembourgish non-profit association Plooschter Projet supports a research project from LIH’s Department of Oncology that aims to characterise in detail the identity and features of immune cells found in the tumour microenvironment in chronic lymphocytic leukaemia.

Plooschter Projet (meaning Plaster Project) is an initiative launched by the Luxembourg triathlete Yannick Lieners who had been diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia at the age of 25. With his association, the young man actively helps cancer patients by supporting cancer foundations and creating awareness among the general population on stem cell donation to treat leukaemia. Thanks to the intense information campaign conducted by Plooschter Projet over the last few years, the number of people from Luxembourg registered as stem cell donors has significantly increased.

For the first time, Plooschter Projet directly supports a research project with a donation of 18,000 euros given to the TSI group at LIH’s Department of Oncology. The research group, led by Dr Etienne Moussay and Dr Jérôme Paggetti, investigates the mechanisms that promote cancer progression. The researchers work in particular on chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), the most common form of leukaemia that is characterised by the accumulation of abnormal B cells in the lymph nodes, blood and spleen. CLL cells render the surrounding cellular environment immunosuppressive to ensure their survival and proliferation. In such a microenvironment, effector T cells are not capable of mounting a potent immune response anymore and regulatory T cells reinforce the immune inhibitory effect.

The goal of the new project supported by Plooschter Projet is to precisely characterise the different T cell populations present in patients’ lymph nodes, the reservoir of CLL. A better understanding of the T cell subtypes and how their functions are subverted by tumour immune escape mechanisms shall give hints for potential targets for new innovative immunotherapies.

To our knowledge, this study will be the first to analyse the immune microenvironment in the lymph node of a large cohort of CLL patients with advanced cell analysis approaches,’ tells Dr Etienne Moussay. ‘We will use state-of-the-art mass cytometry and single cell RNA sequencing techniques. The donation will allow us to cover costs for consumables for these expensive laboratory experiments.’