Immune and Biological Therapies for Cancer

The aim of this project is to develop novel treatments for cancer using viruses that activate the immune system and can also kill cancer cells directly.

The use of viruses to attack cancers is a rapidly expanding area of research and some have already been tried in patients; the hope is to develop newer treatments that can improve on results so far.

Cancers are made up of complex mixtures of cells, not just tumour cells. Other cells that make up cancers include cells that form blood vessels, immune cells and fibroblasts which support the tumour cells. These other cell types both contribute to cancer progression and also can influence the success or otherwise of treatment as they can provide a barrier that resists the delivery of drugs and other agents. Therefore, if these cells and the tumour cells themselves can both be targeted by viruses then the cancer can be attacked on two fronts which might improve therapy. This project will study the effect of viruses on both tumour cells and the supporting cells. 

The use of mice is necessary for this research as the function of the immune system is an important factor in the way viruses attack cancer and so we need to study the effects of treatment in animals that have a normal immune system.  Thus, most of the animals used will be wild type because they have a normal immune system but a small number will be immune-deficient as this will allow us to identify the mechanisms involved in successful treatments and hence develop further improvements. Animals will be given injections of tumour cells so that they develop cancers. The mice will then be treated by injecting viruses and other immune therapeutics and the rate of cancer growth will be monitored so as to determine treatment efficacy. The mice will be killed humanely before the tumour becomes so large that it has a significant effect on their health and well-being, therefore the mice will experience no more than moderate adverse effects as a result of this research.

The overall aim of the project is to develop modified viruses that can be used to target tumour cells themselves and also attack the cancer support cells.  It is hoped that this will ultimately lead to a new treatment for patients with cancer.

Non-technical summary 

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