Our immunology research falls into two primary areas:
- better understanding the relationship between cancer and the immune system
- developing new immunotherapeutic approaches for treating cancer
Cancer and the immune system
Your immune system protects you against infections and other conditions and can also play a crucial role in protection against cancer. It is believed that tumours can regulate the immune responses directed against them and therefore protect themselves from attack.
We are using state-of-the-art immunological and cell analysis techniques so we can understand more about the regulation of immune responses in cancer. This will lead us to being able to design better approaches for enhancing protective immunity in patients.
Our studies are focussed on profiling the immune system in patients, with a specific emphasis on defining the prevalence and function of regulatory T cell populations and NK cell populations in patients with breast and prostate cancer.
Our approaches are also being used to determine whether specific immune profiles can be used as 'biomarkers' for characterising the presence and status of disease in patients with prostate and breast cancer.
Development of new immunotherapies
Although great progress in the management of cancer has been made, currently available drugs and treatment strategies are not able to treat all forms of the disease. Indeed, treatment options can be very limited for some patients.
One potential solution to this problem is to 'vaccinate' against cancer, in a similar way to being immunised against tetanus or flu. This approach would lead to a long-lasting immune protection.
We have identified a number of molecules that are selectively expressed at high levels on tumour, but not normal tissue. These can be used as targeting structures for the immune system and form the basis of new immunotherapy strategies.
We are currently determining whether injecting fragments of these molecules ('peptides') can induce an immune response which can kill tumours in a number of experimental settings using a range of new delivery systems. The overall aim of these studies is to develop new anti-cancer vaccines that can be progressed into clinical trials.
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