London: harnessing the power of the immune system to treat cancer

Last updated: 15/12/2011

What's this project about?

By investigating how our bodies detect and respond to infection, Dr Caetano Reis e Sousa - who leads the Immunobiology laboratory at our London Research Institute - is developing ways to harness the power of the immune system to kill cancer cells.

This exciting field of research could lead to effective new immunotherapy treatments for cancer patients and help to save many more lives in the future.

Read the transcript here.

 
 
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Project update – December 2011

Dr Caetano Reis e Sousa has a special thank you for MyProjects supporters:

Open Quote My team and I are extremely grateful for the warm support that we receive from all the donors to this project. This last month alone the BCG Cancer Research UK fundraising group ran a marathon and Jamie and Lumi went trekking in the Himalayas, all in support of our group, and exceeded their fundraising target!

Thanks to those who contribute to our research, we are able to continue our progress in understanding how best to use cells of our immune systems to beat cancer. Touchingly, one of the pioneers in this area, Ralph Steinman, was awarded this year's Nobel Prize for Medicine for the discovery of dendritic cells - a type of immune cell. Alas, it came three days after he passed away from pancreatic cancer. So, for Ralph and all those with cancer, their families and friends, please keep supporting our research and help harness the power of the immune system in beating cancer. Closing Quote

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Project update – May 2011

Dr Reis e Sousa visited the MyProjects site and was so excited by what he saw that he sent us a message this week to share with you:

Open QuoteThank you all for each and every donation to this project! I am very touched by the outpouring of support for our research initiative and for all the fundraising efforts that have been set up to support us.

Thanks Dan, Luke and David for your Ben Nevis climb, good luck Matthew on your Henley triathlon, congratulations Peta and Jon on your wedding, thanks BCG Cancer Research for your multiple fundraising events, and best of luck to Cycle Europe who will bike all the way from Norway to my home country, Portugal, in aid of our research. Your help and support is invigorating and inspiring in our efforts to develop novel immune-based therapies for cancer.Closing Quote


Project update – March 2011

We spoke with Dr Reis e Sousa recently, and he's thrilled to see the great support of his work so far. He shared this message with you:

Open QuoteThank you so much to all who have contributed to funding this project so far. We got off to a good start and have made some very good progress, but still have some way to go towards reaching our funding goal.

Your support enables us to investigate if immune cells called dendritic cells can help direct our bodies’ natural defences to fight cancer. Please spread the word amongst your friends and with your help we will be able to turn basic science discoveries into new medicines!Closing Quote

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What's the science behind this project?

Imagine that a harmful bacteria or virus has entered your body. What happens next? Thankfully, a quick-footed army of white blood cells will spring into action to protect your body from danger.

Our immune system is amazingly efficient at recognising and attacking foreign invaders. But it isn't as good at killing cancer cells. The reason is straightforward – it doesn't see cancer cells as 'bad'. This is because they're our own body cells – just ones that are multiplying out of control.

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If we can understand more about how the immune system works, scientists may be able to develop ways to stimulate it to fight cancer more effectively.

Many different kinds of white blood cells are involved in the body's immune response. Dr Reis e Sousa is a world-leading expert on one particular type, called dendritic cells. These are responsible for kick-starting the body's immune system into action, telling other types of immune cells what to attack.

By learning more about how these 'immune conductors' control the rest of the cellular orchestra, Dr Reis e Sousa hopes his research will lead to new treatments that direct the body's defences to attack cancer cells.

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The difference you can make

Cancer survival rates have doubled in the last 40 years, thanks to improved diagnosis and better treatments. But there's so much more to do - 1 in 4 people in the UK still lose their lives to the disease.

Dr Reis e Sousa's cutting-edge lab research could ultimately lead to new treatments that supercharge our immune system to seek out and destroy cancer cells. Its potential impact is huge as such drugs could be used alone, or in combination with other treatments, to save many more lives in the future.

Please help us raise £237,000 to cover one year's cost of essential lab supplies used in Dr Reis e Sousa's groundbreaking research.


lab researcherBeating cancer with basic research

Around 40% of Cancer Research UK's research spend (the cost of research work done) goes towards basic research like this to understand how and why cancer develops.

This vital research is relevant to all types of cancer and lays the foundations for new ways to detect and treat the disease.