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Dr Tessa Gargett, University of South Australia

Dr Tessa Gargett’s research is investigating how the body’s immune system can be enhanced to attack and kill cancer cells more effectively.

Fanny McKenzie was diagnosed with a rare soft-tissue sarcoma behind her knee when she was seven months pregnant.

Fanny McKenzie sarcoma survivor Cancer Council SA

Incredibly, Fanny was able to undergo aggressive chemotherapy treatment and safely give birth to her baby girl, who was untouched by the chemo.

Fanny got to meet her little girl, but she still suffered debilitating and exhausting side effects of her treatment.

The support of South Australians over recent years has been helping to fund Cancer Council SA researchers like Dr Gargett to explore new and highly effective ways to treat cancer.

“We have one clinical trial currently running at the Royal Adelaide Hospital which tests a personalised cell therapy in patients with melanoma, and will soon commence two new cell therapy clinical trials in patients with brain cancer.

“Current work shows that around 40 per cent of patients respond to immunotherapy. For some, their tumours disappear completely. But while these results are exciting, the majority of patients don’t respond, and we don’t yet know why this is.

My team wants to further investigate this problem, and test new kinds of immunotherapy with the potential to work across all cancer types.”

“As a researcher and as a mother myself, I find stories like Fanny’s incredibly moving. They make me even more determined to do what I can to improve treatment options. Immunotherapy is a hugely exciting new era of cancer treatment and we want every patient to have the chance to benefit from these breakthroughs.”