One in two British Columbians will hear the words “you have cancer” in their lifetime. And, cancer continues to take more lives than any other disease.


A wealth of recent scientific studies indicates that an immune-based strategy for cancer will lead to better outcomes. In fact, for virtually every type of cancer, there is now clear evidence that patients who mount a strong immune response are likely to survive longer.

BC Cancer’s Deeley Research Centre (DRC) in Victoria is one of the first sites in the world to pioneer an immunotherapy research program that uses genomic approaches to generate more precise and potent immune responses against cancer.

DRC Director Dr. Brad Nelson and his team are joining forces with experts at BC Cancer’s Genome Sciences Centre in Vancouver to deliver truly personalized immunotherapy to patients in B.C.


The time is now to bring immunotherapy to the clinic and bring hope to families across British Columbia. Philanthropic funding for immunotherapy will enable BC Cancer to take its place among the very best cancer programs around the world and lead the way to even better outcomes and an exemplary care experience for people diagnosed with this disease.


Adoptive T Cell Therapy (ACT) 

ACT is one of the most promising forms of immunotherapy. ACT clinical trials have the potential to save the lives of British Columbians facing all types of cancer.

Three trials for reproductive and blood cancers are set to launch imminently:

  • in the TIL (tumour infiltrating lymphocytes) trial, scientists will seek to isolate cells from reproductive (ovarian, cervical and endometrial) tumours to produce a clinical-grade ACT treatment;
  • In the CAR-T (chimeric antigen receptor T cell) trial, patients’ T cells will be genetically modified to target B cell cancers, such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
  • In the lymphoma trial, scientists will seek to identify, isolate and expand mutation-specific anti-tumour T cells for ACT.

Over the past year, Dr. Nelson’s team has created vital infrastructure, prepared for Health Canada approval and enhanced T cell production techniques in preparation for these three trials. A team of highly qualified personnel has been assembled, with expertise ranging from cancer immunology to cell therapy to quality system management.

Now, the team’s top priority is to complete the manufacturing and quality framework required to proceed.

These “test runs” will be part of the clinical trials application to Health Canada. Once the application has been approved, patient enrollment will commence, with the TIL trial planned first, followed by CAR-T and the lymphoma trial over the course of the next year.


Chimeric Antigen Receptor T (CAR-T) CELLs

CAR-T cells are a powerful new tool for treating cancer. Ordinarily, a cancer patient’s immune system can recognize cancer cells and mount a natural immune response. The immune cells that attack the cancer are called T lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell.

Sometimes T lymphocytes are ineffective – they fail to recognize tumour cells or activate or stay active long enough to impact the cancer.

Recent clinical research has shown that it is possible to overcome these limitations by:

  • isolating T lymphocytes from the blood
  • genetically modifying and activating the cells in the lab
  • re-administering them back into the patient

Through genetic modification, the T lymphocytes gain an extra gene that carries instructions for how to destroy cancer, the “chimeric antigen receptor.”

In the past few years, several clinical research groups in the United States have applied CAR-T therapy to leukemia and lymphoma with an incredible 50-90 per cent success rate, even in patients for whom all other treatments have failed.

Because CAR-T cell therapy is highly personalized and requires genetic engineering of each patient’s own cells, considerable infrastructure and expertise is required to deliver treatment safely and successfully.

BC Cancer is a lead institution in a national CAR-T research program. The first made-in-Canada CAR-T clinical trial (CLIC-01 ) is open in Vancouver and Ottawa for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

With your help, BC Can launch immunotherapy trials

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To learn more or to support Immunotherapy Clinical Trials, contact:

Karen Frost
Senior Development Officer, 
BC Cancer Foundation
PH: 250.519.5554