Associate Professor Paul Beavis, fundamental cancer researcher and immunologist at Peter Mac, has received a grant from the Cancer Council Victoria to look at ways to enhance the efficacy of a form of immune based cancer treatment known as chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy.

CAR T-cell therapy involves the genetically engineering of T-cells, part of your immune system, to recognise and destroy cancer cells.  However, some tumour cells can escape detection through the loss of the protein targeted by the CAR.

CAR T-cell therapy is effective in some blood cancers, with patients achieving remission from their cancer when other treatments have failed.

However, this approach is currently not effective in solid cancers partly because solid tumours can adapt to avoid detection by CAR T-cells as they stop expressing the protein that engineered cells target.

The research project, funded by a Cancer Council Victoria Venture Grant, aims to engineer immune cells to express both a CAR and additional factors designed to activate the patient’s own immune system and train it to identify the tumour using different proteins, so it can ‘join’ the attack against the tumour.

It is hoped that this new CAR T-cell therapy could eventually be taken to the next stage and tested in the clinic.  If successful, it has the potential to significantly improve patient outcomes in a range of solid tumour types (e.g., lung, ovarian, breast) where CAR T-cell therapy is yet to be as effective as it is in the treatment of blood cancers.

The Cancer Council Victoria funded four promising research projects to support the brightest cancer researchers in Victoria. 

Congratulations to Associate Professor Beavis on his grant and the recognition that he is receiving for his brilliant research.

To learn more about CAR T-cell therapy view an educational video created by Dr Maja Divjak at Peter Mac.