In Vitro Assays for Immuno-Oncology Research

In Vitro Assays for Immuno-Oncology Research

In the search for precision cancer treatments, researchers are developing new techniques and technologies that harness the body's natural defenses to target and eradicate cancer cells. The transformative research leading to these new methods are thanks to dedicated immuno-oncology scientists who are interrogating the subtle and, oftentimes, hidden interactions between cancer and the host’s immune system. These interactions occur on multiple fronts across the body, but the specialized niche that enables cancer to evade the immune system is known as the tumor microenvironment. The right tools are needed to accurately track the array of intercellular processes at play in this highly complex zone of conflicting cellular responses. Live-cell analysis is one such tool, empowering in vitro assays for studying the dynamic interactions between cancer and immune cells, in real-time. Using high-quality phenotypic data, live-cell analysis monitors cellular interactions in a time-dependent manner, shedding light on these multifaceted interactions between living, behaving cells.

  • Cell proliferation assays are used identify cell population increases brought about by cell division, and are the cornerstone of cancer analysis. Using live-cell imaging, one can identify morphological changes and track cell numbers of one or more cell types over time. As uncontrolled cell growth is one of the hallmarks of cancer, testing for the absence or mitigation of proliferation is also an important testing metric for immuno-oncology researchers.1,2
  • Cell migration assays monitor cellular organization as it pertains to embryonic development, angiogenesis, immune-cell trafficking, and wound healing. Directed cell migration, also known as chemotaxis, is initiated by a stimulus and is visualized as a membrane protrusion at the leading cell border. Using this technology, researchers can test cellular responses to various therapeutic or carcinogenic chemotactic agents to enhance their understanding of essential biological processes.3,4
  • Cell invasion assays are designed to examine the movement of cells from one region to another, through a matrix, recapitulating a pathological context. Understanding this process provides insight into tumorigenesis and metastasis. Defining the mechanisms responsible for tumor-cell invasion has applications in limiting tumor growth and, in turn, the potential to identify molecules that minimize the invasive phenotypes of some cancers.3,4
  • Immune-cell killing assays test for the immune-cell recognition and destruction of unwanted target cells, a key element of the human host-defense mechanism. Activation of the immune response requires the stimulation of immune-cell subpopulations, including natural killer cells and cytotoxic T lymphocytes. These assays reveal the immune system in action and offer valuable clues how it may be redirected to combat cancer cells.5
  • Phagocytosis assays investigate the clearance of tumor cells and cells killed by chemotherapeutic agents, via engulfment by phagocytic cells, like macrophages. With the use of antibodies and phagocytic cells, researchers can evaluate therapies that target cancer cells and effectively clear post-therapeutic dead or apoptotic cells.6

The IncuCyte ZOOM® live cell imaging system offers an array of complementary assays designed to unlock the cancer-fighting mysteries of the immune system in real-time. Giving you the ability to conduct continuous and quantitative live-cell imaging without ever removing your cells from the incubator, the IncuCyte ZOOM can expand your in vitro assay toolkit for immuno-oncology research.

Learn more about Immuno-oncology assays


  1. Jiang J et al: The in vitro effects of caffeine on viability, cycle cycle profiles, proliferation, and apoptosis of glioblastomas. European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences 19, 3201–3207.
  2. Mounir Z et al: TMPRSS2: ERG blocks neuroendocrine and luminal cell differentiation to maintain prostate cancer proliferation. Oncogene 34, 3815–3825.
  3. Santio NM et al: Pim-selective inhibitor DHPCC-9 reveals Pim kinases as potent stimulators of cancer cell migration and invasion. Molecular Cancer 9, 279.
  4. Essen BioScience: Quantification of cell migration and invasion using the IncuCyte™ chemotaxis assay. App Note 8000-0316-B00.
  5. McCormack E et al: Bi-specific TCR-anti CD3 redirected T-cell targeting of NY-ESO-1- and LAGE-1-positive tumors. Cancer Immunology, Immunotherapy CII 62, 773–785.
  6. Morrison C: Immuno-oncologists eye up macrophage targets. Nature Reviews Drug Discovery 15, 373–374.

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