Perth researchers have been called in to join an international effort to fight cancer using a new technique that boosts the body’s immune system.

Known as immunotherapy, the treatment seeks to target individual cancer cells while also boosting the patient’s immune system so cancerous tissues are destroyed whilst leaving healthy areas untouched.

This is in contrast to more usual cancer treatments like radiation or chemotherapy that take a blanket approach, targeting the cancerous cells in a way that also affects normal tissues.

The treatment is being advanced by Swiss biotech company TargImmune, which is forming a Joint Venture with Perth-based health group Race Oncology, as well as a research collaboration with Australia’s oldest medical research institute, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.

This is all part of an effort to bring together expertise from around the world, with TargImmune exploring using Race Oncology’s chemotherapy drug, Bisantrene, for its cancer treatment platform.

Speaking to 6PR’s Gareth Parker, Perth researcher Dr Linda Friedland from TargImmune said the treatment was going to be taken to pre-clinical trials soon.

“Up until now chemotherapy – which in many cases has been effective – kills the cancer cells and kills the normal cells, it’s really just a killing method – I’m simplifying it, obviously.

“Our technology (Immunotherapy) it has a dual effect, it’s causing cancer cell deaths because it’s targeting the specific receptor on that cancer cell, but it also gets the body’s own immune system to launch responses.”

Building on the expertise of noted cancer researcher Professor Alexander Levitzki’s 15-year development of the technology, Professor Tony Burgess from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute will conduct pre-clinical research.

“I’m honoured to be working with such an esteemed group of scientists. Cancer has no bounds and sharing knowledge across borders will allow us to make significant advancements in the treatment of this insidious disease,” Professor Burgess said.

“I strongly believe that major improvements in cancer therapy will come from targeted drug treatment platforms, which combine a range of different therapies and medications.

“We all have a piece of the puzzle and by coming together in this TargImmune collaboration we can see how all the pieces fit together.”



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