New discoveries are closer to becoming cures

Associate Professor Paul Neeson and his team have been exploring how, through immunotherapy, they can use a combination of drugs to stimulate the immune system and boost the body’s own defences against blood cancers, like multiple myeloma.

Associate Professor Paul Neeson is a Group Leader within Peter Mac’s Cancer Immunology Program.

He explains: “We now have drugs called antibodies, which target the cancer by co-opting the immune system cells... These antibodies have been very successful when used in combination with other drugs."

“There are some really exciting antibodies being developed. One of them is called a biospecific engager, which is where one arm of an antibody binds to a receptor on a white blood cell called a T-cell, activating it, and where another arm binds to a myeloma cell. This forms a bridge between the cells, and engages those T-cells to attack the myeloma.”

A/Prof Neeson is excited to be exploring a new discovery involving chimeric antigen receptor T-cells (CAR T) - immune cells that are used to target specific proteins.

Taking the next step

“We have changed human CAR T-cell production to now generate ‘early’ CAR T-cells, which shows exciting potential," he says.

“We believe these ‘early’ CAR T-cells can be readily translated to the clinic and will form a fundamental platform upon which new treatment strategies will be built.”

While immunotherapy holds many promises for new treatments, there are still some limits to its effectiveness for many patients. The cancer itself can suppress a patient’s immune system which limits the ability for CAR T-cells to attack tumour cells.

A/Prof Neeson is hopeful that these early CAR T-cells can help to overcome some of these challenges. He also hopes to further enhance how CAR T-cells respond to the different genetic make-up of tumours.

“Currently there are many patients with cancer who do not respond to immunotherapy. Our study of early CAR T-cells will provide alternate treatment strategies to improve their responses to immunotherapy.”

Should A/Prof Neeson’s theory prove correct, this discovery could improve the effectiveness of treatment for many cancer patients.

 

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