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Tracking immune cells to improve immunotherapy

Researcher
Dr David Withers
Project period
May 2021 - May 2023
Country
Research Institute
University of Birmingham
Cancer types
General cancer research
Award amount
£170,685

Project aim

Dr David Withers and his team are trying to gain a better understanding of how the immune system fights cancer, hoping that the insights from their work will help to design better immunotherapies.

Hope for the future

Using the body’s immune system to fight cancer has shown great promise in the form of immunotherapies. Unfortunately, these treatments tend to only work in a minority of patients and we still do not understand exactly how immunotherapy helps the body’s immune system fight cancer.

Dr Withers and his team are now trying to find out more about how our immune system and immunotherapies work against cancer. They hope that a better understanding of these processes will help to improve the current immunotherapies, making them useful for more patients.

 

Meet the scientist

Dr David Withers likes to spend his time away from the lab with his two children and the family dog. He lives in Malvern, which also offers great opportunities for running and walking.

The science

Checkpoint inhibitors are a type of immunotherapy that take the brakes off the immune system, allowing it to find and destroy cancer cells that have previously been hiding. While these treatments show great promise, they currently only work on very few patients and we do not yet fully understand how they work. It is not very well understood which immune cells are required for an optimal response and where these cells are located.

Dr David Withers and his team developed an innovative new way to track the movement of immune cells in and out of tumours and between different tissues in the body. They are now using their new approach to better understand the cells that orchestrate the anti-tumour response and investigate how checkpoint inhibitors work. The team hopes that these insights will help to design better therapies which will benefit a larger number of patients.

I think everyone’s lives are affected by cancer and it is in the back of many people’s minds as they get older. Knowing that all cancers had good treatment options would be more than enough to dream of I think and a really worthy goal.
Dr David Withers

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