Prof. Gordon Freeman, the ground breaking scientist who enabled the development of antibody-based immunotherapy cancer treatments, spoke at the Irish Association for Cancer Research 2016 Annual Conference on Thursday, 25 February in Cork. The Conference is a leading event in the area of cancer research attracting internationally renowned scientists to Ireland to showcase their most current cancer research work.
Prof. Gordon J. Freeman, Professor of Medicine, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Harvard Medical School is a key figure in the progression of immunotherapy as his discovery of the PD-1 a checkpoint inhibitor, which dampens down the immune system, opened the door for many pharmaceutical companies to develop antibody-based therapies. The treatments, which effectively remove this ‘brake’, are now in use, with Irish patients already benefiting from the PD-1 cancer immunotherapies. Prof. Freeman discussed other potential targets for synergizing with immune checkpoint blockade and how advances in understanding T cell coinhibitory pathways have stimulated a new era of immunotherapy with effective drugs to treat cancer.
It has been long known that the immune system played a pivotal role in a patient’s fight against cancer but it is only in the last few years that front line immunotherapies have been able to deliver on that idea. Immunotherapy has now joined Surgery, Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy as a key weapon in the arsenal of cancer treatments.
Prof. Freeman, Dr Tangney and Prof. Seymour at the Irish Association of Cancer Research, which took place in Cork in February 2016
Treatment using PD-1 in conjunction with electrochemotherapy will begin shortly in Cork under the direction of Dr Declan Soden, Manager of the Cork Cancer Research Centre. Used in combination, these two techniques are showing promising results in models tackling even the most deadly cancers.
Also speaking at the event, Prof. Len Seymour, Professor of Gene Therapies, Oxford University highlighted his research of onocolytic viruses that are able to infect and kill cancer cells, while leaving normal cells unharmed. Within the past year the first immunotherapy using oncolytic viruses was approved in the US. At his talk Prof Seymour shared the results of development of his group’s first oncolytic adenovirus, known as ColoAd1, which has now been evaluated in over 50 patients in a series of early phase clinical trials.
Dr Mark Tangney, Principal Investigator with Cork Cancer Research Centre, University College Cork also appeared at the conference and updated the audience on their recently published findings on how different bacteria found in the body can have both positive (stimulating) and negative (dampening) effects on chemotherapeutic drugs.
The conference attracted over 250 researchers and scientists from the oncology world seeking to hear about current research into cancer and cancer treatment.