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  • Research home > Beat Cancer Project search > Training the immune system to kill cancer cells

    Training the immune system to kill cancer cells

    Professor Michael Brown

    Advancing T-cell therapy for leukaemia and glioblastoma

    Our research 

    Both brain cancers and acute myeloid leukaemia affect Australians throughout their lifespan. These difficult to treat cancers are rarely curable. Standard treatments work for a time and then fail because the cancer becomes resistant. We propose to take an entirely novel approach to treating these resistant cancers by harnessing the power of the patient’s immune system against their cancer. We will re-program the patient’s immune system by making their own T cells (immune cells) recognize and kill cancer cells more efficiently in the laboratory before returning them to the patient’s body. The ‘genetically engineered’ T cells will then be armed to target the patient’s cancer directly. We will do this in a way that reduces the possibility of serious side effects. Once we have shown that this approach works, we can turn to using this T-cell therapy for earlier stages of the cancer as well as for other cancers.

    What we aim to achieve:

    We aim to show that equipping a patient’s T cells with a new cancer targeting capacity is effective against these cancers in preclinical models.

    Our next steps and milestones:

    Our next steps are to create and refine the methods for re-programming T cells to make them kill acute myeloid leukaemia brain cancer cells in the test tube. We expect to have these methods available for both brain cancers and acute myeloid leukaemia in the next 6-12 months.

    What motivates me:

    I am most interested in devising new methods of cancer therapy that can be used alone or in conjunction with standard treatments to improve them.

    My message to supporters:

    It is now evident in the clinic at last that the immune system can be harnessed to benefit cancer patients. However, much work remains to be done to make it safe and effective for more cancer patients than is currently the case. Your support is needed to help move these promising therapeutic approaches forward to the clinic.


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