Turning the immune system against cancer

Lead researcher

A/Prof Michael Kershaw, A/Prof Phil Darcy

A/Prof Michael Kershaw, A/Prof Phil Darcy

Institution

Sir Peter MacCallum Department of Oncology, The University of Melbourne

Tumour type:

Breast

Years funded

2014-2016

Project description

Doctors have found that T cells, a type of white blood cell, taken from the blood of cancer patients and modified in the laboratory, can react against tumours when given back to the patient. However, T cells often lack strength on their own.

Our aim was to increase the strength of the white blood cells using immune boosting methods. With the support of Cancer Council Victoria, we have produced a special breed of mouse that has genetically modified white blood cells of the immune system to provide them with molecular 'weapons' to fight cancer.

During the third year of support, we have used white blood cells from these mice and injected them into other mice that have tumours. We found that we could cure mice that had large tumours in the skin, breast or liver using a treatment combining an injection of white blood cells with a vaccine.

In the future, we will make similar white blookd cells from human blood, which will hopefully lead to a clinical trial in cancer patients. 

What is the need? 

Therapies using a patient's own immune system (called immunotherapy) are showing promise for cancer therapy; even after all other methods such as chemotherapy have failed. This is especially true for some leukaemia patients, but most common cancers such as breast and colon cancer have been resistant to immunotherapy.

 In our project, we have developed a stronger immunotherapy treatment, which can destroy breast and colon cancer tumours in mice.

What impact will this research have?

By identifying the components necessary to make an effective immunotherapy for cancer, it could help us understand how immunotherapies work against cancer and lead to new treatment options for cancer patients.  

 

"Therapies using a patient's own immune system (called immunotherapy) are showing promise for cancer therapy; even after all other methods such as chemotherapy have failed."

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