Personalized cancer treatment on its way

B.C. Cancer Agency launching immunotherapy clinical trials in 2017

Dr. Brad Nelson at Victoria’s Deeley Research Centre

Dr. Brad Nelson at Victoria’s Deeley Research Centre

After more than a decade of laboratory research, a revolutionary approach to cancer treatment will soon be underway in B.C. with clinical trials beginning early in the new year.

Dr. Brad Nelson, director of the B.C. Cancer Agency’s Deeley Research Centre in Victoria, and his colleagues are joining forces with experts at the B.C. Cancer Agency’s Genome Sciences Centre in Vancouver to deliver personalized immunotherapy to patients across the province.

Immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to help combat cancer. T cells are the immune cells that circulate through the body searching for diseased cells to eliminate. In this case, the concept is to collect, activate and expand a patient’s own cancer-fighting T cells and infuse large numbers of them back into the patient’s bloodstream.

Once in circulation, the T cells are expected to recognize and destroy cancer cells throughout the body, thereby “super charging” the patient’s immune response to their cancer.

The Deeley Research Centre is just one of three labs in Canada focusing on T cell immunotherapy, and is globally recognized for its work on ovarian cancer.

Through the generous support of donors, the state-of-the-art Conconi Family Immunotherapy Lab at the B.C. Cancer Agency’s Deeley Research Centre will allow the research team to grow large numbers of potent, high-quality T cells for re-infusion in patients participating in the upcoming clinical trials.

“T cell therapy is the most exciting development I have seen in my career, and research in this area has produced fantastic results,” said Nelson.

“Initial trials will focus on cervical, endometrial and ovarian cancer. With further support, we hope to extend our work to blood cancers, where genetic engineering will be used to give the T cells an extra boost in their power and precision.”

To help support the next round of trials for leukemia and lymphoma on Vancouver Island, contact Alyssa Grace at 250-519-5554 or alyssa.grace@bccancer.bc.ca. To learn more about immunotherapy, visit: bccancerfoundation.com/immunotherapy.