Fighting Cancer with Your Own Immune System
Ground-breaking research is underway boosting the body’s own immune system to fight the most common cancers affecting Australian families, including breast cancer.
The treatment is known as immunotherapy, and whilst it’s currently revolutionising blood cancer treatment, when it comes to solid cancers like breast cancer it’s not known to be as effective.
Thanks to your support, this is all about to change! In the first year of her PhD within the Breast Cancer Research Unit at the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research (BHI), Namfon (Bee) Pantarat is developing a new immunotherapy treatment to target solid cancers such as breast cancer.
“Researchers believe we are at the threshold of a golden era for a therapy called ‘adoptive T Cell therapy’, a type of immunotherapy that involves isolating and reinfusing cancer fighting cells called ‘T cells’ back into a patient’s body,” Bee said.
“A recent clinical trial in terminally ill blood cancer patients, who only had months to live, showed extraordinary results with more than half of these patients experiencing complete remission by using this T cell therapy.
“However when trying to target solid tumours, which kill more people than blood cancers, the T cells are not as effective. We found that when we inject T cells into the bloodstream, most of them don’t travel to the tumour site but randomly go to other places in the body.”
Utilising the world-class medical equipment at the BHI, made possible thanks to you, Bee is developing a new therapy that will deliver these cancer fighting cells directly to the tumour.
“You can’t just inject these T cells straight into the tumour because they won’t last long in that environment. We are putting them in a gel and putting them right where the tumour is, within this gel there is food for them to keep them alive, so over time the cells will slowly drift out to fight cancer.”
Whilst currently using breast cancer as a basis for her research, Bee is hopeful her work will provide a viable therapy for other solid tumour including prostate cancer and brain tumours.
“I hope to offer an effective, complementary treatment for cancer patients, particularly those with tumours that are difficult to remove through surgery.
“There is a lot of work to be done to ensure our therapy will not just extent patient’s lives by a month or two, but ideally cure their cancer all together. That’s the hope!”
We look forward to providing you with an update on Bee’s potentially lifesaving treatment closer to the end of her PhD.