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A relationship with cancer cells

August 16, 2016

Hello again! As I mentioned last week, I am a postdoctoral fellow at the Deeley Research Centre with Dr. Julian Lum. I thought I’d share a bit about the research that I do with you this week. As many of you may be aware, researchers at the Deeley Research Centre are interested in a powerful new kind of treatment for cancer called immunotherapy. While immunotherapy has seen unprecedented success in different cancer types, there is still room for improvement. The need for a greater understanding of immunotherapy and the necessity for improving current therapies are what motivate me.

It might sound surprising to many of you, but tumour cells do not grow in isolation. In fact, tumour cells require a complex network of cells that are in constant communication with each other. This network is called the tumor microenvironment. Think of this as a symbiotic relationship where one group of cells depends on another group of cells for survival. My research focuses on factors that control how the immune system interacts with the tumour.

We’ve made an exciting initial discovery that genetically removing a gene in normal cells surrounding the tumour can stimulate potent immune responses and prevent tumours from growing.  Why is this exciting?  It tells us that normal tissues surrounding the tumor may in fact be preventing the immune system from doing its job. This may open up new avenues for improving immunotherapies for cancer.

To change gears (and no pun intended), I’d like to mention that the Cell Cyclist’s have been busy training and fundraising for the upcoming Ride to Conquer Cancer. I can’t believe it is less than two weeks away! Am I ready you ask? I’m as ready as I’ll ever be! The Cell Cyclists have partnered up with Arbutus RV who has generously agreed to match each rider’s fundraising efforts dollar-for-dollar. Saturday August 13th concluded our series of “ride-a-thon” events that took place at each of the Arbutus RV locations around the Island. Next week I’ll share a bit more about our fundraising efforts and how these dollars are going to support our upcoming Immunotherapy clinical trial program at the Deeley Research Centre.