Thanks for taking time to read our immunogenomics blogs and for supporting our research at the BC Cancer Agency.
I have always been fascinated with infectious agents and, in particular, viruses. This led to my focus on infectious agents that cause cancer and a strong interest in the human immune response. I pursued this interest during my graduate studies and postdoctoral work in Cambridge, UK, working on papillomavirus and retroviruses. Since 2003 I have been working for Canada’s Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre (GSC) at the BC Cancer Agency and have continued this focus in my research.
In my current role as sequencing group leader I have overseen a dramatic shift in sequencing technologies and throughput from sequencing the 1st human genome requiring hundreds of millions of dollars and hundreds of people, to our capacity at the GSC to sequence 500 genomes a month at a cost of a few thousand dollars each. This has enabled avenues of research that were previously unimaginable – it is an exciting time.
The Immune System and Cancer Control
One promising area that has benefitted from this technical revolution and which we are proud to be involved in is immunogenomics and immunotherapy. It has become clear how critical the immune system is in cancer control and progression as well as in the regulation of infectious agents.
At the GSC we are using sequencing technologies to determine two immunogenomic data types for cancer patients in both research programs and immunotherapy trials:
- The first is profiling the individual’s immune response by sequencing their T-cell and B-cell receptors.
- The second is determining the patient’s Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) type - this dictates how targets are presented or shown to the immune system.
Armed with this information we can tailor and personalize novel immunotherapies such as those detailed in previous blogs. We are also working on determining the targets for individual immune cells so we can match up the immune response with their specific target.
This is an interesting and rewarding time to be involved in cancer genomics, I am proud to be contributing to the field and more importantly impacting future patient outcomes.
Sequencing Group Leader,
Genome Sciences Centre, BC Cancer Agency