Research round up – June 2011

June 1, 2011

Vaccine trial goes ahead

The JHMRF has funded the first clinical trial of an immunotherapy vaccine in combination with standard chemotherapy. This research looks into using the body’s own immune system to fight mesothelioma. We are delighted that the laboratory work carried out by Dr Zsuzsanna Tabi’s team of cancer immunologists at Cardiff University has moved into an exciting new phase with trials of an experimental cancer vaccine.

Immunity work attracts interest

We are also funding studies into the molecular pathways of mesothelioma cells. Dr Saly Al-Taei is working on ways of stimulating patients’ immune systems into recognising and killing mesothelioma cells. The Fund enabled her to present a poster at a major conference in Keystone, Colorado in 2010 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.”

Gene project underway in Cardiff

The Fund has awarded £23,000 for a promising strand of investigation into the activity of a specific set of genes found in some types of cells associated with mesothelioma, at the Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff.

The two-year project is being carried out by Dr Jason Webber (below) of the Exosome Biology Group, led by Dr Aled Clayton. Dr Webber said: “There is significant interest in this realm of cancer research and, naturally, we hope it will lead to potential new treatments”.

Steve Lee Fellowship

The JHMRF is also funding our first fellowship, in the name of Steve Lee, whose Fellowship, a doctoral fellowship project that will investigate the anti-mesothelioma activity of a new biological compound derived from bacteria.

Dr Adrian Dobbs and researcher Seble Lemma (inset) is investigating synthesising a naturally-occurring bacteria found in soil and vegetation, which has been shown to act against mesothelioma cells, in sufficient quantities to see if it could be used as a treatment for the disease. It’s the first product that’s demonstrated significant activity against mesothelioma, so this work is potentially very important.