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  • Research
  • Cracking the Code to Cancer Immunotherapy

    February 2020

    Through the generous contributions of our community, in 2018 Reflections donated funds to support a Postdoctoral Fellowship through Cancer Council WA under the supervision of Dr Jonathan Chee. We recently received an update on the progress of the study Cracking the Code to Cancer Immunotherapy and this is what we have to share with you.

    When asked what the most significant achievement was, Dr Chee responded saying that he collected tumours from animals that responded well to immunotherapy and completed key experiments that generated a robust data set. With the dataset, Dr Chee is able to use new mathematical tools to interrogate how changes in the immune system can predict immunotherapy outcomes. The two research aims for the study, which have both been partially achieved, are:

    • Developing novel immune biomarkers of responses to immunotherapy in mesothelioma, and
    • Developing a personalised therapeutic vaccine targeting mutated cancer antigens.

    Aim 1 has been successful in demonstrating that immunotherapy outcomes are reliant upon the dynamic changes that occur in the immune system within a tumour before and after treatment. Detecting possible predictors of immunotherapy responses have been established through the development of new mathematical methods. This study is also in the process of being extended to patient blood samples from a recently completed clinical trial.

    As for aim 2, they have found that vaccine targeting cancer mutations were not able to protect from tumour growth. Therefore, they are focussing on how to improve vaccine strategies.

    Dr Chee has been successful throughout the research, involving being promoted to Level B, Step 1 at the University of Western Australia (UWA) and was selected as a mentor for top-scoring undergraduate students. This was under the UWA Fogarty Scholarship Mentoring Scheme, which started in July 2019 and ends in July 2020. Dr Chee has also formed a new collaboration with two Professors from the University of Pennsylvania. They have utilised novel analytical tools they developed to study immunosequencing data derived from melanoma patients that underwent personalised vaccination.

    Dr Chee and his students have presented their results to the general public through their annual community forum, and to members of the Ban Asbestos Network and the Asbestos Victims Association (South Australia).

    Cracking the Code to Cancer Team

    Jonathan Chee and his Team*All information was sourced from the Cancer Council WA Fellowship Progress / Final Report