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Targeting of patient immune cells for the treatment of leukaemia

Lead researcher

Dr Daniel Utzschneider, Prof Stephen Opat, Prof Constantine Tam, Prof Axel Kallies

Dr Daniel Utzschneider, Prof Stephen Opat, Prof Constantine Tam, Prof Axel Kallies

University of Melbourne

Tumour type:
Leukaemia and lymphoma

Years funded

Project description

T-cells fighting the uncontrolled growth of tumour cells often undergo functional impairments known as ‘exhaustion’. We have recently discovered a subset of exhausted T-cells that responds to immunotherapy. We will look to identify and characterise such exhausted T-cells responding to chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL). This will enable us to identify the factors that limit T-cell function and use them as novel therapeutic targets to improve T-cell immunity and achieve better outcomes for CLL patients.

What is the need? 

CLL is the most common type of adult leukaemia in western countries. Although it can be well managed with single or combination treatments, many patients relapse and become resistant to the therapies available. Trials using ‘checkpoint blockade’ have shown little efficacy in CLL so there is an urgent need to understand the factors that limit their success in order to harness the full potential of the human immune system.

The human immune system is very powerful in eliminating malignant cells. Understanding how to use its full potential can lead to tremendous outcomes for millions of patients.

What are you trying to achieve?

We aim to identify novel pathways and therapeutic targets to improve the immunity of T-cells to haematological malignancies. This can be achieved directly or in combination with known immunotherapies such as checkpoint therapy.

How important is this funding?

This Grants-in-Aid funding from the Cancer Council Victoria will provide pivotal support to further drive and intensify our research efforts in identifying targetable T-cells in patients suffering from CLL and thus facilitating a better tumour control.

Project timeline

Timeline 2021 2022 2023
Characterise tumourspecific T-cell subsets in response to leukaemia.      
Target T-cell subsets to improve control of leukaemia.      
Identify T-cell subsets in leukaemia patients.      

Award / Duration

3 years