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The Pioneer project

A major international research project in lung cancer

Immunotherapy is becoming a game-changer in the treatment of cancers, including one of the most serious: non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). However to date, only 20% of these patients respond favorably to the first available immune-modulating antibodies: PD-1(L1) immune checkpoint inhibitors.

On the initiative of Marseille Immunopôle, Aix-Marseille Université (AMU), Inserm and CNRS, four of their research (CIMLCRCM) and technology (CIPHEMImAbs) centers, Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Marseille (AP-HM), the Léon-Bérard Center in Lyon (CLB), CHU of Toulouse, the biotech company ImCheck Therapeutics, the two French leaders in immuno-oncology Innate Pharma (therapeutic) et Veracyte (diagnostic) and one of the worldwide leaders in the field, the biopharmaceutical group AstraZeneca, have joined forces to better understand, predict and overcome these resistances.

Winner of the 3rd University-Hospital Research in Health call for projects in the “France 2030” program, this major international research project, called The Pioneer Project, was launched in November 2017. This 6-year project is coordinated by Fabrice BARLESI, Professor of Medicine at Université Paris-Saclay, CEO of Gustave Roussy Institute and co-founder of the French cluster Marseille Immunopôle.

* Precision Immuno-Oncology for advanced Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Patients with PD1(L1) ICI Resistance.

** Initially a 5-year project. Extension period granted, notably linked to the Covid crisis.

Posters and publications

Comprehensive biomarkers analysis to predict efficacy of PD1/L1 immune checkpoint inhibitors in combination with chemotherapy: a subgroup analysis of the Precision Immuno-Oncology for advanced Non-Small CEll Lung CancER (PIONeeR) trial (ESMO IO 2022)

Brightplex® TCE and Brightplex® MDSC assays combination improve advanced NSCLC patient stratification under anti-PD1/L1 immunotherapy in the PIONeeR project (SITC 2022)

Anti-HVEM mAB therapy improves antitumoral immunity both in vitro and in a novel mice model expressing human HVEM and BTLA molecules using HVEM expressing tumors (SITC 2022)

Comprehensive biomarkers analysis to explain resistances to PD1/L1 ICIs: The Precision Immuno-Oncology for advanced Non-Small CEll Lung CancER (PIONeeR) trial (AACR 2022)

Preliminary PIONeeR Biomarker data analysis (SITC 2021)

PIONeeR presentation (ESMO 2020)

Evaluating Biomarkers During Clinical Trials for Immunotherapies: A Case Study on the Pioneer Project (Webinar by HalioDx, 2019)

Pioneer study precision immuno-oncology for advanced  nonsmall cell lung cancer patients with PD1/L1 ICI resistance (WCLC 2019)

Immunogram to decipher PD1/L1 ICI resistance: a proof of concept in advanced NSCLC patients of the PIONeeR Project (SITC 2019)


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Key figures
1,825 days, 3 countries, more than 100 scientists, 7 research labs, 4 hospitals, 25,510,000€ including 8,502,000€ of NRA funding
RHU Coordinator: Aix-Marseille Université
Clinical Trial Sponsor: Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Marseille
Project initiator: Marseille Immunopole
Direction: Prof. Fabrice BARLESI (Université Paris-Saclay, Institut Gustave Roussy)


The Pioneer Project RHU is led by a consortium bridging together Aix-Marseille Université (AMU)l’Inserm, le CNRS, Assistance Publique Hôpitaux de Marseille (AP-HM), le Léon-Bérard Center in Lyon (CLB),  ImCheck Therapeutics, Innate Pharma, Veracyte and AstraZeneca.


In addition to coordinating the missions and allocating human and financial resources, the consortium manages intellectual property right sharing and is in charge of leveraging the diffusion of results obtained in the framework of the RHU. It relies on an independent Scientific Committee and a Steering Committee. The project team, led by Professor Fabrice Barlesi, coordinates and follows the advancements of the deliverables listed in the 5 workpackages of the RHU.


The Pioneer Project Team