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International connections to accelerate cancer immunotherapy

18 March 2015

There is an incredible air of excitement in the global scientific community as cancer immunotherapy advances.  As a result, the Malaghan Institute is building new international connections with other experts in immunology.  Sharing of knowledge is fundamental to the development of vaccines and immune-based therapies for the treatment of disease and therefore underpins all our research programmes.

We were honoured to host Jill O'Donnell-Tormey, Ph.D., Chief Executive Officer and Director of Scientific Affairs of the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) an American non-profit organisation aimed at harnessing the immune system’s power to conquer all cancers.

For the past twenty years the Malaghan Institute has devoted considerable energy into establishing a leading Cancer Immunotherapy Programme, providing a platform of immunotherapy expertise and technology unavailable elsewhere in this country.  Jill O’Donnell-Tormey visited to connect with our research, and present a high level view of recent advances in cancer immunotherapy.

The Malaghan Institute and the Cancer Research Institute are looking at how the immune system could be unleashed to kill cancers.  Both our organisations are interested in the incredible specificity of the immune system.  Because cancer cells have distinct targets, the immune system can be directed at those cancer cells specifically, and with very few of the side effects normally associated with conventional drugs.

Jill O’Donnell-Tormey shared insights into the partnerships and collaborations that CRI have built around the world and highlighted the possibility of combination therapies for cancer in the future.  In essence, this is the combination of one immunotherapy with another immunotherapy.  A challenge in this approach will be to watch for any evidence of increased toxicity with the combination. 

The Malaghan Institute is connecting with international researchers to develop new immunotherapy approaches to cancer.  As the impact of our New Zealand-based research grows, we look forward to connecting with more international leaders in immunotherapy.