Colorado showcase for Fund immunologist

June 1, 2010

Immunologist Dr Saly Al-Taei is working on a JHMRF-funded project on ways of stimulating patients’ immune systems into recognising and killing mesothelioma.

The Fund enabled her to present a poster at a major conference in Keystone, Colorado earlier this year on the cellular and molecular biology of immune escape in cancer.

Dr Al-Taei said: “My poster on tumour-associated suppressor cells in malignant pleural mesothelioma attracted a lot of mixed interest from delegates.

“Some were intrigued by our data on the immunological profile of the cancer and the pleural fluid environment and encouraged by the development of immunotherapies for mesothelioma.

“It’s also fair to report that there was scepticism, that this aggressive disease is beyond any medical intervention and funding for future research will be difficult due to the life expectancy and occurrence rate of mesothelioma.

“Unfortunately, we are all too aware that mesothelioma research will always struggle to compete with the more common and well publicised cancers such as breast and prostate and it certainly made me appreciate the work of JHMRF in funding mesothelioma research.”

There was particular interest at the conference in two aspects of the team’s research; firstly, in the use of patient samples, which is relatively rare in America, where research is predominantly conducted on mice. Delegates were also extremely interested in the prospect of clinical trials involving patients getting underway later this year.

Dr Al-Taei added: “If you put the altitude sickness, below freezing temperatures and American portion sizes aside, it was a great conference. I learned a lot about potential obstacles to immunotherapy which we will take into consideration for our clinical trial and also gained some interesting ideas for future direction of my research.

“I am extremely grateful for the Fund for helping me attend this conference and especially for funding my current research which has now been translated into a clinical trial in patients.”