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Dr. Julian Lum: Giving Immune Cells an Advantage

October 23, 2015

Hello, I’m Dr. Julian Lum and I’m delighted to return as a BC Cancer Foundation blogger.

I’ve been a scientist at the Deeley Research Centre (DRC) since 2008 and am also an assistant professor in the department of biochemistry and microbiology at the University of Victoria. I began my career in the field of translational HIV/AIDS immunology research, and subsequently moved to doing basic cancer research.

My training and expertise in these areas led me to realize the important connection between cancer and immunology and resulted in two main areas of focus for my lab:

  • a new field, which we call immunometabolism of cancer – a way of giving immune cells a competitive advantage, and
  • understanding how radiation influences the immune system, so we can develop new immune-based treatments that take advantage of the benefits of radiation.


While these fields might seem far apart, I’d like to tell you why I see them both as critical areas we need to study:

Cancers require a large amount of nutrients to grow and divide – this is a major problem because the cancer cells out-compete immune cells for these resources, ultimately stalling the immune system from mounting a response. Even if it is possible to combine different types of immune therapies with standard treatments such as radiation, we still need to overcome this nutrient limitation. My laboratory is a unique position to tackle these problems.

Clinical Trials on the Horizon

Without a doubt, being able to deliver new and innovative therapies to patients motivates me in my work and I’m very excited about the immunotherapy clinical trials that my team is developing. As a first step towards this goal, we are planning to launch a clinical trial combining radiation with a new immunotherapy in early 2016.

It is truly an exciting time for immunotherapy, a real game changer for cancer treatment. I hope that the knowledge I’ve shared with you is equally inspiring, as we move into a new era and find solutions for the cancers that have affected so many British Columbians.