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Boosting immunotherapy treatments to treat pancreatic cancer

  • Researcher: Dr Li Wang
  • Institution: Medical College of Wisconsin, USA
  • Award Amount: £202,240 for 3 years from 1st June 2016
  • Cancer Type: Pancreatic Cancer
Boosting immunotherapy treatments to treat pancreatic cancer
Dr Li Wang in the US is developing a new type of ‘cancer vaccine’ immunotherapy treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Pancreatic cancer is often resistant to standard radiation and chemotherapy, and is still very hard to treat in many patients. Immunotherapy treatments, which involve training the body’s own immune system to fight against cancer are already doing well in a number of cancer clinical trials, but not yet against pancreatic cancer.

Dr Wang and her team think they might have found a way to enhance one particular type of upcoming cancer vaccine immunotherapy, to make it effective against pancreatic cancer.

“Antibodies which block a set of cell proteins called immune checkpoint proteins have become the breakthrough therapies for late-stage melanoma patients,” says Dr Wang. “However, the same treatment has so far failed to bring survival benefits for pancreatic cancer patients.”

“In my lab we have recently identified a type of immune checkpoint protein which early tests suggest might be linked to pancreatic tumour growth. We now want to investigate further whether blocking this new protein will help enhance the effectiveness of the cancer vaccine immunotherapy treatment against pancreatic cancer.”

In this project the researchers will carry out a number of tests in the lab to understand exactly how this method works against tumours, and find out how effective blocking the new protein might be.

“Ultimately we hope this new work will help us begin to formulate and test a brand new therapy for patients with pancreatic cancer,” says Dr Wang.
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