Cutting-edge treatment targets cancer

BC Cancer Foundation seeks $4 million to fund clinical trial

Oak Bay News owner David Black, hosted the announcement of a funding campaign to support clinical trials of a new cancer treatment at his Oak Bay home this week.

“This is a cutting-edge form of treatment,” said Dr. Brad Nelson, Director of the Trev and Joyce Deeley Research Centre.

In 10 years of research at the centre, Nelson and his team are prepared to begin clinical trials of a form of immunotherapy called adoptive T cell therapy, or ACT.

The therapy involves taking a patient’s cancerous tumour, after it’s been removed, and harvesting T cells in the lab.

“(We can) pull out the immune cells, in particular the T cells that are in the tumour, and are trying to fight that tumour – having a ground battle if you will – and we can take those T cells and grow them in the lab … get them all ramped up and revived and in very large numbers and give them back to the patient in an IV bag as an infusion.”

Those T cells then enter the blood stream and circulate throughout the patient’s body, wherever cancer cells may be trying to hide, whether it be in the bone marrow, liver, or other organs. Those T cells will be able to find the cancer recognize it and destroy it, he said.

“It’s an entirely new approach to cancer treatment. It’s using the body’s own defences to fight (cancer) but with some help from science – and it’s working,” he said.

The goal of immunotherapy is to enhance the immune response to cancer using drugs, vaccines or T cell infusions. Successfull immunotherapy rids the body of residual cancer cells. The T cells also remain in the body, protecting the patient from a reoccurrence.

The funding campaign will allow for the construction of a Good Manufacturing Process Clean Room, a secure, closed suite with special air filtration equipment that keeps the entire space sterile. Researchers wear gowns, hoods and booties while inside to protect the integrity of their work.

The BC Cancer Agency believes a $4 million charitable investment will lead to some $4 to $6-million in grant funding.

“Philanthropy will be the driver for this exciting research,” said Alyssa Grace, Senior Director, Development for the BC Cancer Foundation. “At this stage, the Ministry of Health does not fund early stage clinical trials and there is no apparent commercial value to the work that’s being done.

“It’s a procedure. It’s a process that involves a patient’s own T cells. So, philanthropy will drive the science through this first phase of clinical trials.”

Those clinical trials, which will include 10 to 15 patients per year, are expected to begin as early as 2017.

“We’re at $1.2 of a $4-million goal to get to the end of the first phase of clinical trials and that will build the infrastructure, the staffing and the protocols around the clinical trial,” said Grace.

BC is a leader in cancer research discoveries, said Nelson. “We can be an international leader with this investment,” he added.

He and his team are encouraged by results in immunotherapy coming from the United States.

“We’re hearing reports of T cell therapy being highly successful in melanoma in centres in the U.S. and more recently in leukemia as well.”

In a recent clinical trial in Philadelphia involving children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, engineered T cells generated “complete, durable remission” in 14 of 22 patients, he said.

“This is the most exciting period of my career, no question,” said Nelson. “It’s exciting as a scientist to get to test your ideas.”

Nelson and his team want to build a program in BC to offer the T cell treatments to those with ovarian cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer.

The first clinical trial will focus on patients with ovarian cancer.

To learn more, or to make a donation, go to bccancerfoundation.com.

Just Posted

Oak Bay man designer behind Canucks’ retro jersey

Jeremie White was 20 years old when he told Canucks assistant GM Brian Burke he had a design

BC Farmers’ Market Trail a one-stop virtual guide to the goods

New website assembles, profiles 145+ farmers’ markets throughout B.C.

Westshore Rebels game postponed due to poor air quality conditions

Games expected to continue the following week

Saanich police investigating sexual assault in broad daylight

Social media lit up with accusations incident took place at Regina Park tent city

Swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

Five things to do in Greater Victoria this weekend

Puppy yoga, horses, cars, water guns and more make up this weekend’s list of events to see

Canadians fear for relatives trapped amid flooding in Indian state of Kerala

More than 800,000people have been displaced by floods and landslides

IndyCar driver Wickens flown to hospital after scary crash

IndyCar said Wickens was awake and alert as he was taken to a hospital

Ex-BCTF president ‘undeterred’ after early release from pipeline protest jail term

Susan Lambert and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson released early

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights are misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Most Read