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Cancer Immunotherapy

The goal of the cancer immunotherapy research group is to design more effective immunotherapies and vaccines to prevent and treat cancer.

The Cancer Immunotherapy group has spent several years developing novel compounds that directly stimulate our cancer-killing immune cells. It is known that T-cells, a type of immune cell, can kill cancerous cells. Therapies that induce the activity of T-cells therefore hold considerable promise as new therapeutic agents and can act similar to a vaccines.

The team is investigating the specific immune cell populations involved in eliciting effective immune responses to vaccination, including the dendritic cells responsible for stimulating T cells, and other less well-known cells, called innate like T cells – which includes NKT cells - that contribute to the induced response. Working together with chemists, they aim to define compounds that can be incorporated into vaccines to ensure optimum, coordinated activity of all of the immune cells involved.

The team is also closely studying the behaviour of immune cells in and around tumours, as well as intratumoural microenvironments, with the aim of uncovering novel mechanisms of delivering therapeutics directly to these sites for more effective treatments.

The cancer immunotherapy research group works closely with New Zealand leaders in the fields of immunology, medicinal chemistry and clinical oncology to test their vaccines in cancer patients.