Team:EPFL/Applied Design

iGEM EPFL 2018

Applied Design

Personalized Cancer Therapy, Monitoring Patient’s Response to Treatment, and Follow-up:

There are three main unmet medical needs in melanoma therapeutics and follow-up sector:

  1. Due to the special characteristics of neoepitopes, which vary from one patient to another, developing personalized vaccines in most cases is not feasible and economically viable. Current techniques for producing neo-peptides, e.g. solid-phase peptide synthesis techniques (Chandruduet al., 2013), are expensive and time-consuming. Another important factor is that the overall time needed for good manufacturing practice (GMP), from the start of processing the patient’s sample for mutation discovery to vaccine release for administration, is about 3 to 4 months and is usually a costly process (Sahin et al., 2018). Since each patient may need a completely different set of peptides to be vaccinated against, this makes it a huge barrier for others to be scalable in this market.
  2. Monitoring patient’s response to treatment is a critical part of treatment procedure in personalized vaccine. After our interviews with different specialists in the field of personalized vaccine therapy, including Prof. Olivier Michielin, we found out that this is an important barrier for development of an effective therapeutic solution. Since personalized vaccine is exclusive to each patient, there is a substantial need for monitoring patient’s response to the treatment. We put our effort into the development a non-invasive and easy-to-use tool for doctors to evaluate treatment response on specific tumor cell types.
  3. After successful treatment, patients should regularly be tested for disease recurrence (Dummer,R, et al., 2015). This requires sensitive, reliable, and non-invasive follow-up tests for patients. Having this will ensure detecting relapse in early stages, which will result in increasing patient survival rates.

Current Techniques and Methods:

Current techniques for synthesizing peptide vaccines (Chandrudu et al., 2013), include solid-phase peptide synthesis and novel ligating techniques, which impose great limitations towards producing fully personalized vaccines.

Current methods and tools for analysing and monitoring treatment responses to peptide vaccine therapy, including measuring peptide-specific CTL precursors in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs)(Komatsu et al., 2004), are mainly used in clinical trials and not by doctors during the treatment process. Also, these methods do not give any insights about the actual tumor progression or repression, rather they act as an indicator of T-cell maturation.

CAPOEIRA’s Vision in the Real World:

We developed our value proposition according to the inputs that we received from different specialists in cancer therapy and the medical sector, to address two of the most important unmet medical needs. Thus, we envisioned to “provide a complete solution to patients and doctors to utilize the full potential of personalized medicine by providing fully personalized vaccines accompanied by a monitoring system to evaluate patients’ response to treatment faster, more reliably, and easily”.

For doing so, we developed our platform based on cell-free expression protein systems, which can be standardized and reducing the overall timeline for producing vaccine along with good manufacturing practice (GMP) to 2-3 weeks, compared to current timeline which is about 3 to 4 months (Sahin et al., 2018).

To complete our therapeutic solution, we developed a non-invasive, sensitive, and easy-to-use tool that enables doctors to evaluate treatment response by directly measuring the progression of the remission of tumor cells.

Impact of CAPOEIRA:


CAPOEIRA will bring the opportunity for patients to fully benefit from personalized treatment and monitoring. We visioned our project to increase the accessibility of personalized treatment and monitoring by providing reliable, fast, and easy-to-use tools while decreasing the costs.


Doctors can benefit from a holistic solution in cancer treatment and monitoring, which enables them to utilize the full potential of personalized vaccine for Melanoma cancer and reduce the toxicity of treatments by monitoring patient response to treatment with a non-invasive and reliable monitoring tool.


Hospitals can save money and time by using CAPOEIRA, where they can reduce the overall time that patient’s spend in hospitals. In addition, hospitals with a research initiative can develop this technology to a stage where research and development can take place in order to improve the therapy.

Ease of Mind for Cancer Survivors Families:

One of the biggest concerns that cancer survivors and their families have, is the disease recurrence and relapse. Limitation of current methods in detecting relapse in early stages, causes cancer survivors and their families to always live in fear. By bringing CAPOEIRA to the life, we will bring an ease of mind for melanoma cancer survivors and their family once and for all.


The economic burden of cancer for government in cancer treatment is really high.In the U.S. alone, the economic costs for the treatment of skin cancer is $8.1 billion annually (Guy GP et al., 2015). Part of these costs could be reduced by providing personalized vaccine therapy and by providing efficient monitoring tools which reduce wasting resources.


  • Chandrudu, Saranya, Pavla Simerska, and Istvan Toth. "Chemical methods for peptide and protein production." Molecules 18.4 (2013): 4373-4388.
  • Dummer, R., et al. "Cutaneous melanoma: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow-up." Annals of Oncology 26.suppl_5 (2015): v126-v132.
  • Guy GP, Jr. Machlin SR, Ekwueme DU, Yabroff RK. Prevalence and Costs of Skin Cancer Treatment in the U.S., 2002-2006 and 2007-2011. Am J Prev Med. 2015;48(2): 183-187.
  • Komatsu, N., et al. "New multiplexed flow cytometric assay to measure anti‐peptide antibody: a novel tool for monitoring immune responses to peptides used for immunization." Scandinavian journal of clinical and laboratory investigation 64.6 (2004): 535-546.
  • Sahin, Ugur, and Özlem Türeci. "Personalized vaccines for cancer immunotherapy." Science 359.6382 (2018): 1355-1360
  • Siegel RL, Miller KD, Jemal A. Cancer Statistics 2017. CA Cancer J Clin. 2017;1: 7-30.