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Tumour Killing Assays

Using Live Cell Imaging to Assess Immune Responses to Cultured Tumour Cells

Understanding whether you test biologic and/or small molecule enhances tumour cell killing could well be a key component of your immuno-oncology drug discovery program. Aquila use the IncuCyte® Live Cell Analysis System from Essen Bioscience to gain live real-time visual data throughout our Tumour Killing assay (Figures 1 & 2).

Figure 1. Tumour Cell Killing Assay

Figure 2. IncuCyte® Live Cell Analysis System images.

Aquila offers cell-mediated cytotoxicity (CMC) and antibody-dependent cytotoxic (ADCC) assays to help you assess immune cell driven apoptosis of cultured tumour cells. Our ADCC assays can be adapted to a range of tumour types and immune cell populations, such as T cells, NK cells, macrophages and neutrophils. They can also incorporate anti-TAA antibodies. Using the IncuCyte® Live Cell Analysis System, we can generate valuable and powerful data showing the kinetics of killing.

Target tumour cells are labelled with NucLightTM Red, seeded into a 96-well plate, and treated with caspase 3/7 substrate along with treatments under investigation and the immune cell population of interest (e.g. whole PBMC, CD8+ T cells or NK cells). The system delivers real-time data for tumour cell proliferation and apoptosis. In addition, supernatants can be harvested to measure release of soluble immune-mediators (e.g. IFN-γ) and flow cytometric analysis of recovered immune cells can identify selective expansion of individual cell populations.

The data shown in Figure 3 from a human ovarian cancer cell line cultured with anti-CD3-stimulated PBMC, highlight the ability of the IDO inhibitor, Epacadostat, to boost tumour cell killing. The system can be adapted to incorporate a range of tumour cell types and immune cell populations (T cells, NK cells, macrophages, neutrophils), and the inclusion of anti-TAA antibodies.

Figure 3. Epacadostat increases the killing ability of T cells.

Get in touch to find out about how Aquila’s IncuCyte® Live Cell Analysis System can support your immuno-oncology drug discovery programme. Want to say up to date with Aquila’s latest news?Connect with Aquila on Linkedin and Twitter.


Immuno-oncology is an exciting and progressing area of research that uses manipulation of the immune system to successfully target cancer.

Killing Assays

Understanding whether a test biologic or small molecule can enhance tumour cell killing could well be a key component of your IO drug discovery program.