Immuno-Oncology Group

Established in 2016, the Unicancer Immuno-Oncology Group (Unicancer IO Group) embodies Unicancer’s strong desire to be a major player in immunotherapeutic cancer research, as immunotherapies are about to significantly transform cancer treatment.  


President: Frédérique Penault-Llorca, Jean Perrin Centre, Clermont-Ferrand, France

Logo groupe immuno-oncologie

Bringing together renowned researchers and clinicians from the areas of immunology and oncology, this group offers a framework for cross-fertilisation. The Unicancer IO Group naturally focuses on checkpoint inhibitors and combinations thereof with radiotherapy, chemotherapy or targeted therapies, and a dozen clinical and translational studies involving PD-1 and PD-L1 antagonists are already under preparation. The research perimeter of this group also extends to other immunotherapeutic agents having the potential to improve patient care (e.g. cell therapy, allografts, therapeutic vaccines).

The Unicancer IO Group interacts closely with the other UNICANCER expert groups, pooling their respective networks as well as their biological, methodological and technical expertise, with the goal to conduct innovative and strategic clinical studies with a strong translational component in a standardised fashion.


Strategic priorities

  • To develop innovative immunotherapy programmes that enable patient access to novel therapies
  • To develop and evaluate therapeutic strategies involving immunotherapeutics
  • To identify biomarkers associated with therapeutic response, in order to better target treatment to potential responders and rationalise treatment combinations
  • To better understand the mechanisms of treatment resistance, whether innate or acquired
  • To describe the long term treatment-related toxicity in a real-life setting and to identify associated risk factors, through large nationwide cohort studies


Flagship programme: AcSé immunotherapy

In 2017, two studies have come to enrich the AcSé programme, led by UNICANCER under the aegis of the French National Cancer Institute (INCa), with the support of the Ligue contre le cancer. These phase II “basket” studies provide patients with rare cancers a secure access to immune checkpoints inhibitors. The study objectives are to assess the treatment efficacy and safety in each cohort and to identify predictive factors of response.


AcSé nivolumab

300 patients expected, 6 cohorts

  • Non-clear cell renal cell carcinoma
  • Rare head and neck cancer
  • Rare skin cancer
  • Non-colorectal cancers with microsatellite instability
  • Penile cancer
  • Cancers with POLE mutation


AcSé pembrolizumab

300 patients expected, 6 cohorts

  • Rare soft tissue, visceral, or bone sarcomas
  • Rare ovarian cancers
  • Primary central nervous system lymphomas
  • Rare thyroid cancers
  • Rare malignant neuro-endocrine cancers
  • Germ-cell-cancers



The group is led by a president and a vice-president (4-year mandate) with the support of a board. A UNICANCER programme manager facilitates its work.

  • President: Frédérique Penault-Llorca, Centre Jean Perrin, Clermont-Ferrand, France
  • Vice-President: Stéphane Depil, Centre Léon Bérard, Lyon, France


  • Fabrice André, Gustave Roussy, Villejuif
  • Frédérique PenaultLlorca, Centre Jean Perrin, ClermontFerrand
  • Stéphane Depil, Centre Léon Bérard, Lyon
  • François Ghiringhelli, Centre GeorgesFrançois Leclerc, Dijon
  • Vassili Soumelis, Institut Curie, Paris

Within the IO group, a biology taskforce is dedicated to defining and coordinating a strategic programme of biological samples collection and valorisation. Clusters of expertise will also be implemented over time based on the Group’s specific needs and ambitions.

  • Methodology
  • Paediatrics


The Immuno-Oncology Group in short




Unicancer Clinical Programme Lead:
Daniel Couch

Unicancer Partnerships Officer:
Camille Baron

Unicancer Clinical Operations Director
Beata Juzyna

Unicancer R&D Director
Christian Cailliot