Peter Mac scientists have entered a research agreement with Pfizer to better understand how T-cells work and how they can apply that information to explore new treatment avenues.

T-cells are a type of white blood cell that help the immune system fight against foreign substances in the body. They are an important immune response to infection and diseases like cancer.

Over a decade ago research uncovered how we could harness our own T-cells to fight cancer.  This led to the development of the innovative CAR T-cell therapy which is used today with remarkable results in some cancers.  

This new research will focus on developing a deeper understanding of how T-cells work as well as uncovering mechanisms that will enable us to development new ways to use T-cells to attack cancer.

Led by Professor Ricky Johnstone, Executive Director of Cancer Research at Peter Mac, the project aims to develop new methods to enhance the potency of existing treatments and uncover new means to harness the immune system to fight cancer.

“I am delighted by the support we’re receiving from Pfizer to address the fundamental questions around how T-cells kill cancer cells and identifying the gene expression pathways that regulate this potent immune response,” said Professor Johnstone, who heads the Gene Regulation Laboratory within Peter Mac.

“A deeper understanding of this process could ultimately lead to completely new ways to use T-cells to treat cancer.

“The success of CAR T-cell therapy that uses the help of the body’s T-cells to identify and fight cancer shows the promise of exploring new avenues to genetically modify and harness the power of T-cells to find new cancer therapies,” he said.

The research agreement includes funding support from Pfizer and also provides Peter Mac with access to Pfizer’s library of genetic tools and epigenetic compounds as well as use of high throughput screening capabilities of the Victorian Centre for Functional Genomics based at Peter Mac.


For more information contact the Peter Mac Communications team on 0417 123 048.

About Peter Mac

Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre is a world-leading cancer research, education and treatment centre and Australia’s only public health service solely ded