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Sophia Karagiannis

Name of the laboratory

Reader in Translational Cancer Immunology, Head of Cancer Antibody Discovery and Immunotherapy
St. John's Institute of Dermatology
School of Basic & Medical Biosciences
King's College London, UK

Research Group Members

Members: Antibody Discovery and Immunotherapy
Dr. Sophia Karagiannis
Dr Heather Bax (Postdoctoral Research Fellow)
Mr Jitesh Chauhan (GSTT/Cancer Research UK Technician & PhD student)
Dr Alicia Chenoweth (BCN Postdoctoral Research Associate)
Dr Anthony Cheung (BCN Postdoctoral Research Associate)
Dr Silvia Crescioli (NHIR/BRC Postdoctoral Research Associate)
Dr Melanie Grandits (Postdoctoral Research Associate)
Mr Robert Harris (Cancer Research UK/KHP PhD Student)
Mr Roman Laddach ((NHIR/BRC PhD student)
Dr Jacobo Lopez-Abente (Postdoctoral Research Associate)
Ms Alexa McCraw (MRC iCASE PhD student)
Mr Gabriel Osborn (MRC PhD student)
Dr Lais C G F Palhares (Postdoctoral Research Associate)
Mr Pablo Romero-Clavijo (Cancer Research UK PhD Student)
Dr Chara Stavraka (NIHR Clinical Lecturer/Oncologist)
Dr Zena Willsmore (Cancer Research UK Clinical Fellow, PhD Student & Dermatology Registrar)
Dr Rebecca Adams (Clinical Research Fellow & Dermatology Registrar)

Summary of research

Our main research interests centre on designing antibody therapies for solid tumours such as melanoma, ovarian and breast carcinomas. Our antibody discovery pathway is informed through dissecting humoral immune responses to solid tumours as well as investigating the tumour-targeting mechanisms of IgE class antibodies and Th2 responses in cancer. Patient-derived antibodies and B cell responses are examined as potential biomarkers, with a view of developing stratified medicine approaches and patient-focused treatments. We are presently developing a pipeline of antibodies and our first-in-class agent has reached a Phase I clinical trial.

Research activities

Our laboratory’s activities are focused on the discovery and evaluation of monoclonal antibodies for clinically-challenging solid tumours such as melanoma, ovarian and breast carcinomas and on dissecting immune responses to cancer with particular focus on B cells and the antibodies they produce. Major research streams in our laboratory include: a) dissecting humoral responses and mechanisms of Th-2-biased inflammation in tumours; b) interrogating patient humoral responses as potential biomarkers to aid stratification and with a view of developing patient-focused treatments; c) designing antibodies with potent effector functions; d) elucidating antibody mechanisms of action in disease-relevant models.

Part of our research focuses on the nature and functions of B cells and antibodies in tumour immunity, particularly on tumour-resident and tumour-reactive B cell subsets and on antibody expression in tissues and the circulation. We have recently placed particular emphasis on antibody subclasses with immunosuppressive functions such as IgG4 which may suppress effector cell functions and block cytotoxic antibodies from eradicating cancer. We have demonstrated that antibodies produced in patients with melanoma can recognize and attack tumour cells. Despite producing antibodies recognising tumour cells, patients’ immune systems are mostly ineffective in restricting cancer growth. We have also shown that the tissue environment in tumours provides specific conditions, including production of cytokines like IL-10, which favour expression of IgG4 antibodies, resulting in antibody-mediated immune responses with reduced potency. We furthermore study patient-derived antibodies and B cell responses as potential biomarkers with a view of predicting clinical outcomes and developing patient-focused treatments.

Another key area of research relates to evaluating the impact of antibody class on the therapeutic efficacy of tumour antigen-specific antibodies. We are conducting studies directly comparing the efficacy and mechanisms of action of two different classes of antibodies, IgG and IgE. Our research suggests that compared to IgG, aspects of IgE biology are potentially better suited to cancer therapy, including a higher binding affinity for Fc receptors, and the ability to activate different populations of potent effector cells normally present in tumour tissues to kill tumour cells. Our studies provide an insight into the diversity of mechanisms different classes of antibodies employ to activate immune effector cells such as monocytes/macrophages to target and kill tumours. Our most advanced agent, MOv18 IgE, raised against the α isoform of Folate Receptor, a tumour-associated antigen expressed almost exclusively in tissue cancers such as those of the ovary, breast and skin, has now reached clinical testing and we continue to perform safety, efficacy, potency and mechanistic studies on this agent.

To interrogate antibody potency and mechanisms of action in recruiting, re-educating and activating human effector cell subsets against a range of target antigens, we are developing disease-relevant models featuring engraftment of different components of human immunity. Working with collaborating laboratories and biotechnology partners, we are developing novel antibody glyco-engineering approaches, antibody-drug conjugates, antibodies for further development in imaging studies and for cancer therapy, with the aim of expediting promising therapies and diagnostic tools from the laboratory bench to the patient bedside.

Grant support

Our research has been supported through project and programme grants by the National Institutes of Health Research Biomedical Research Centre, the CR UK New Agents Committee, Breast Cancer Now, the Academy of Medical Sciences, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), the Medical Research Council, the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre, the CR UK/EPSRC/MRC/NIHR KCL/UCL Comprehensive Cancer Imaging Centre, and the British Skin Foundation.

Publications (2016-present)

  • Crescioli S, Chiaruttini G, Mele S, Ilieva KM, Pellizzari G, Spencer DIR, Gardner RA, Lacy KE, Spicer JF, Tutt ANJ, Wagner GK, Karagiannis SN*. Engineering and stable production of recombinant IgE for cancer immunotherapy and AllergoOncology. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2018 Jan 31. pii: S0091-6749(18)30081-2. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2017.12.986.
  • Ilieva KM, Cheung A, Mele S, Chiaruttini C, Crescioli S, Griffin M, Nakamura M, Spicer JF, Tsoka S, Lacy KE, Tutt AN, Karagiannis SN*. Chondroitin Sulphate Proteoglycan 4 and its potential as an antibody immunotherapy target across different tumor types. Front. Immunol. 2018, 8:1911.
  • Jensen-Jarolim E, Bax HJ, Bianchini R, Crescioli S, Daniels-Wells TR, Dombrowicz D, Fiebiger E, Gould HJ, Irshad S, Janda J, Josephs DH, Levi-Schaffer F, O Mahony L, Pellizzari G, Penichet ML, Redegeld F, Roth-Walter F, Singer J, Untersmayr E, Vangelista L, Karagiannis SN*. AllergoOncology: Opposite Outcomes of Immune Tolerance in Allergy and Cancer. Allergy, 2018, 73(2):328-340
  • Hoffmann RM, Coumbe BGT, Josephs DH, Mele S, Ilieva KM, Cheung A, Tutt AN, Spicer JF, Thurston DE, Crescioli S, Karagiannis SN*. Antibody structure and engineering considerations for the design and function of Antibody Drug Conjugates (ADCs). OncoImmunology, 2017, 7(3):e1395127.
  • Ilieva KM, Fazekas-Singer J, Achkova DY, Dodev TS, Mele S, Crescioli S, Bax HJ, Cheung A, Karagiannis P., Correa I, Figini M, Marlow R, Josephs DH, Beavil AJ, Maher J, Spicer JF, Jensen-Jarolim E, Tutt, AN, Karagiannis SN*. Functionally Active Fc Mutant Antibodies Recognizing Cancer Antigens Generated Rapidly at High Yields. Front Immunol. 2017, 8:1112.
  • Griffin M, Scotto D, Josephs DH, Mele S, Crescioli S, Bax HJ, Pellizzari G, Wynne MD, Nakamura M, Hoffmann RM, Ilieva KM, Cheung A, Spicer JF, Papa S, Lacy KE, Karagiannis SN*. BRAF inhibitors: resistance and the promise of combination treatments for melanoma. Oncotarget. 2017 8(44):78174-78192.
  • Van Hemelrijck M, Karagiannis SN, Rohrmann S. Atopy and prostate cancer: Is there a link between circulating levels of IgE and PSA in humans? Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2017 66(12):1557-1562.
  • Halim L, Romano M, McGregor R, Correa I, Pavlidis P, Grageda N, Hoong SJ, Yuksel M, Jassem W, Hannen RF, Ong M, Mckinney O, Hayee B, Karagiannis SN, Powell N, Lechler RI, Nova-Lamperti E, Lombardi G. An Atlas of Human Regulatory T Helper-like Cells Reveals Features of Th2-like Tregs that Support a Tumorigenic Environment. Cell Rep. 2017 20(3):757-70.
  • Jensen-Jarolim E, Turner MC, Karagiannis SN. AllergoOncology: IgE- and IgG4- mediated immune mechanisms linking Allergy with Cancer and their translational implications. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2017 140(4):982-984.
  • Jensen-Jarolim E, Karagiannis SN, Turner MC. 2017. Allergy. In Encyclopedia of Cancer, 4th Edition, pp. 184-6. Ed. M SchwabHeidelberg, Germany: Springer-Verlag, Online ISBN: 978-3-662-46875-3
  • Jensen-Jarolim E, Bax HJ, Bianchini R, Capron M, Corrigan C, Castells M, Dombrowicz D, Daniels-Wells TR, Fazekas J, Fiebiger E, Gatault S, Gould HJ, Janda J, Josephs DH, Karagiannis P, Levi-Schaffer F, Meshcheryakova A, Mechtcheriakova D, Mekori Y, Mungenast F, Nigro EA, Penichet ML, Redegeld F, Saul L, Singer J, Spicer JF, Siccardi AG, Spillner E, Turner MC, Untersmayr E, Vangelista L, Karagiannis SN*. AllergoOncology - The impact of Allergy in Oncology. EAACI Position Paper. Allergy. 2017 72(6):866-887.
  • Karagiannis SN*, Josephs DH, Bax HJ, Spicer JF. Therapeutic IgE Antibodies: Harnessing a Macrophage-Mediated Immune Surveillance Mechanism against Cancer. Cancer Res. 2017 77(11):2779-2783.
  • Josephs DH, Bax HJ, Dodev T, Georgouli M, Nakamura M, Pellizzari G, Saul L., Karagiannis P, Cheung A, Herraiz C, Ilieva KM, Correa I, Fittall M, Crescioli S, Gazinska P, Woodman N, Mele S, Chiaruttini G, Gilbert AE, Koers A, Bracher M, Selkirk C, Lentfer H, Barton C, Lever E, Muirhead G, Tsoka S, Canevari S, Figini M, Montes A, Downes N, Dombrowicz D, Corrigan C, Beavil AJ, Nestle FO, Jones PS, Gould HJ, Sanz-Moreno V, Blower PJ, Spicer JF, Karagiannis SN*. Anti-folate receptor-α IgE but not IgG recruits macrophages to attack tumors via TNF-α/MCP-1 signaling. Cancer Res, 2017 77(5):1127-1141.
  • Chiaruttini C, Mele S, Opzoomer J, Crescioli S, Ilieva KM, Lacy KE, Karagiannis SN*. B cells and the humoral response in melanoma: the overlooked players of the tumor microenvironment. OncoImmunology, 2017 6(4):e1294296.
  • Montero-Morales L, Maresch D, Castilho A, Turupcu A, Ilieva KM, Crescioli S, Karagiannis SN, Lupinek C, Oostenbrink C, Altmann F, Steinkellner H. Recombinant plant-derived human IgE glycoproteomics. J Proteomics. 2017 161:81-87.
  • Vigor K, Emerson J, Scott R, Cheek J, Barton C, Bax HJ, Josephs DH, Karagiannis SN, Spicer JF, Lentfer H. Development of Downstream Processing to Minimise Beta-Glucan Impurities in GMP-Manufactured Therapeutic Antibodies. Biotechnol Prog. 2016 32(6):1494-1502.
  • Bax HJ, Josephs DH, Pellizzari G, Spicer JF, Montes A, Karagiannis SN*. Therapeutic targets and new directions for antibodies developed for ovarian cancer. MAbs. 2016 8(8):1437-1455.
  • Barton C, Vigor K, Scott R, Jones P, Lentfer H, Bax HJ, Josephs DH, Karagiannis SN, Spicer JF. Beta-glucan contamination of pharmaceutical products: How much should we accept? Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2016 65(11):1289-1301.
  • Wulaningsih W, Holmberg L, Garmo H, Karagiannis SN, Ahlstedt S, Malmstrom H, Lambe M, Hammar N, Walldius G, Jungner I, Ng T, Van Hemelrijck M. Investigating the association between allergen-specific immunoglobulin E, cancer risk and survival. Oncoimmunology. 2016; 5(6):e1154250.
  • Saul L, Ilieva KM, Bax HJ, Karagiannis P, Correa I, Rodriguez-Hernandez I, Josephs DH, Tosi I, Egbuniwe IU, Lombardi S, Crescioli S, Hobbs C, Villanova F, Cheung A, Geh JL, Healy C, Harries M, Sanz-Moreno V, Fear DJ, Spicer JF, Lacy KE, Nestle FO, Karagiannis SN*. IgG subclass switching and clonal expansion in cutaneous melanoma and normal skin. Sci Rep. 2016; 6:29736.
  • Cheung A, Bax HJ, Josephs DH, Ilieva KM, Pellizzari G, Opzoomer J, Bloomfield J, Fittall M, Grigoriadis A, Figini M, Canevari S, Spicer JF, Tutt AN, Karagiannis SN*. Targeting folate receptor alpha for cancer treatment. Oncotarget. 2016; 10.18632/oncotarget.9651.
  • Crescioli S, Correa I, Karagiannis P, Davies AM, Sutton BJ, Nestle FO, Karagiannis SN*. IgG4 Characteristics and Functions in Cancer Immunity. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2016; 16(1):7.

* Corresponding author