Project No. 01

Immunotherapy for Prostate Cancer

Training the body’s immune system to fight cancer, for a future when advanced prostate cancer treatment could mean a single injection, with tiny side effects

S c r o l l   R i g h t

The Project

The immunotherapy project is working to harness the immune system's innate ability to fight cancer.

How?

PCRC scientists are using a naturally occurring protein to help the immune system attack cancerous cells.

IL-15

IL-15 is a 'chemical tail' - an extra molecule - which anchors the protein at the precise location of the cancer.

What could this achieve?

This treatment would require one injection, with permanent effects. This could revolutionise the treatment of prostate cancer.

The future

What's next?

The project was awarded additional funding from PCRC in 2018 and will have a new researcher joining the team soon.

The Project

The immunotherapy project is working to harness the immune system's innate ability to fight cancer.

How?

PCRC scientists are using a naturally occurring protein to help the immune system attack cancerous cells.

IL-15

IL-15 is a 'chemical tail' - an extra molecule - which anchors the protein at the precise location of the cancer.

What could this achieve?

This treatment would require one injection, with permanent effects. This could revolutionise the treatment of prostate cancer.

The future

What's next?

The project was awarded additional funding from PCRC in 2018 and will have a new researcher joining the team soon.

Project Start

January 2015

Research Facility

MRC Centre for Transplantation, Guy's Hospital London

Budget

£300,000/year

End

December 2019

Impact

PCRC systematically monitors and evaluates the impact of our research using a set of metrics, or ‘Research Progress Indicators.’ They represent an outcome of research which is a catalyst for the development of new prostate cancer therapies. In the last 12 months, this project has achieved the following results.

Creating and Disseminating New Knowledge

• One publication – ‘A tale of tails; A novel approach to immunotherapy of prostate cancer’, European Urology Supplements, 16:3 (December 2017).
• Three papers submitted for publication in Spring 2018.
• Two Conference Presentations:
o European Association of Urology, London, March 2017
o San Diego Cell Symposia on Cancer, Inflammation and Immunity, June 2017

Growing Expertise

PCRC supports seven researchers working in Dr Galustian’s team. This future-proofs our mission to find new treatments; todays assistants are the oncologists and clinical researchers of tomorrow.

Award of Additional Funding

In April 2018, PCRC granted Dr Galustian an additional £56,000 of funding for 2018/19. £16,000 is a one-off cost for a new AKTA machine. The team uses this machine to attach the ‘chemical tail’ to a purified form of IL15. The remaining £40,000 (per annum) funds a new Chemistry Technician, who will to join the team until the conclusion of the project in 2022. This appointment is essential to maximising the clinical potential of our immunotherapy project Currently, a Protein Chemist oversees the process of attaching ‘chemical tails’ to IL15 (a protein). The new Chemistry Technician will start applying chemical tails to non-protein based immunotherapeutic agents. This will create possibilities for powerful immunotherapeutic drugs to be used in conjunction with IL15, or in isolation, in certain clinical scenarios.

Scientific Progress

Dr Galustian’s major innovation was attaching an extra molecule, or ‘chemical tail’, to a protein called IL15. This protein is immunotherapeutic; it causes the immune system to fight cancer cells. The ‘chemical tail’ means that IL15 can be used to treat cancer tumours anywhere in the body – it acts as an anchor which keeps IL15 at the tumour site. This means this form of immunotherapy can fight advanced prostate cancer which is currently incurable and has no efficient treatments.

Analysing the Effects of Immunotherapy

In late 2017, the researchers performed histological analysis of the prostate cancer tumour tissues taken from mice models on which the new immunotherapy had been tested. These tests had proved the new treatment reduced tumours. Analysing the tissue samples in greater detail enabled the team to determine exactly how and why IL15 successfully reduced tumours in these mice models. This work provided valuable information about how the new treatment would work in humans.
Dr Galustian concluded that the treatment is likely to be more effective in humans than in mice. This is because the ‘chemical tails’ are made from human cells – not mice cells. It was felt that this inhibited the effectiveness of the ‘chemical tails’ tested in mice.

Testing ‘Chemical Tails’

The team has focused their research into ‘chemical tails’ over the last twelve months. They have been analysing the effects of different chemical tails on human prostate cancer cells to establish what the most effective type of ‘chemical tail’ is to use in patients. This work is ongoing.

Purifying Proteins

In 2016, the team formed a partnership with DC Biosciences, a spin-out company from the University of Dundee. In the last 12 months, DC Biosciences have produced 8 different forms of purified IL15. Two of eight were identified as suitable for use in humans because they were safe (few side-effects) and effective at shrinking tumours.
DC Biosciences are continuing to produce these two purified forms of IL15 for Dr Galustian’s team to work with.

Help us Fund a Future for Men and their Families

As a small charity, we can focus the majority of our funds on research.

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