Project details

Researcher: Professor Awen Gallimore

Location: University of Cardiff

Project title: Improving immunotherapies to successfully treat breast cancer

The challenge

The immune system protects the body from infection caused by viruses and bacteria. The immune system can also recognise and destroy cancer cells, but cancer cells can find ways to escape it.

Immunotherapy, a treatment for breast cancer, helps the immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells. Research is crucial to find ways to create new immunotherapies that can be used to treat breast cancer.

The science behind the project

Professor Awen Gallimore and her team are exploring how we can use the immune system to treat breast cancer. They have found that two types of cells, called regulatory T cells (or Tregs) and cancer associated fibroblasts (or CAFs) can stop the immune system from working properly inside breast tumours.

They found that switching off Tregs in mouse models of breast cancer caused a quarter of tumours to shrink. There are also drugs that turn off Tregs and they allow the immune system to target breast cancer.

In this project, researchers want to understand if switching off CAFs at the same time will improve treatment success.

First, they want to identify which types of CAFs stop the immune system from working properly, and understand how they do it. The researchers hope to develop a treatment that targets these CAFs. They will design special viruses that can carry and deliver drugs to these CAFs this will turn the immune system back on. They also want to combine this new approach with drugs that turn off Tregs to create a treatment that can successfully target and destroy both primary and secondary breast cancers.

What difference will this project make?

If the combination of treatments that turn off Tregs and CAFs is successful, researchers hope it could be further tested in clinical trials. Awen and her team hope that this research will lead to an immunotherapy that is a more effective treatment for breast cancer.

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