The immune system is a network of cells, tissues and organs that protects our bodies against threats and reacts to invaders such as bacteria and viruses. It is our body’s natural defence system against disease – and millions of years of evolution have made it very effective.
However, our immune system often fails to recognise cancer cells because they are adept at masking themselves. We need to make these cells visible to the immune system, and then we can use new immunotherapies to potentially cure cancer.
Activating a person’s immune response against cancer is one of the most exciting advances in cancer research in recent years. Some immunotherapies have shown spectacular responses, effectively curing patients with advanced cancer, including in melanoma and head and neck cancer.
Our researchers here at the ICR, working with clinicians at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, have led some of the trials that have brought these treatments into the NHS.
Our challenge now is to follow up the early excitement and make these treatments work even better, for more people. We are the world’s leading academic centre for cancer drug discovery, so we are in an incredibly strong position to drive this research forward – but first we need your support.
How we are using immunotherapy to outsmart cancer
We are using viruses to infect and kill cancer cells, and to spark the immune system into action against the remaining tumour cells
We are developing drugs called checkpoint inhibitors. These block proteins that stop the immune system from attacking the cancer cells.
Looking ahead, we plan to study how tumours interact with the cells of our immune systems. These studies could allow us to create new drugs that manipulate the immune system at the molecular level – or even target molecules in the environment around a tumour to enhance the immune response.
Our plans for our immunotherapy research are ambitious – but with your support today, we can make these plans a reality and give greater numbers of cancer patients a vital extra lifeline.