Current immunotherapy projects

Cancer immunotherapy refers to the use of treatments that harness and enhance the natural powers of the immune system to fight cancer.

Immunotherapy represents the most promising new cancer treatment approach since the development of the first chemotherapies in the late 1940s. It uses substances that naturally occur in the body to boost the function of the immune system. As a result the body is able to destroy cancer cells more effectively, and with fewer side-effects than chemotherapy drugs.

The last five years have seen a surge of new immune-based therapies that are changing the landscape of how children with some of the more deadly cancers are treated. Immunotherapy has been used successfully in the UK in children with leukaemia and neuroblastoma.

We are funding a number of projects, taking forward immunotherapy approaches for the benefit of children with different kinds of cancer – including leukaemia, neuroblastoma and sarcomas.

Evaluation of B7H3 as a novel target for immunotherapy in childhood cancer

Isabelle Gore 24 May 2016
Dr Kathleen Birley, UCL Institute of Child Health

Kathleen Birley was awarded a Clinical Studentship in December 2015 - our first such studentship - to support her research into a new immunotherapy approach for childhood cancers.

She is focusing on a protein called B7H3 which is present on cancers including neuroblastoma and the brain tumour DIPG; it is hoped that this may represent a new target for the treatment of these cancers.

Background – the need for new treatments One of the difficulties in developing new treatments for childhood cancers is finding ways to attack the cancer cells without damaging healthy cells. This is an importa...
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Immunotherapy for relapsed paediatric acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

Isabelle Gore 22 September 2015
Professor Persis Amrolia, UCL Institute of Child Health, London

Stem cell transplant is used as a treatment of last resort in young patients with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) whose disease has failed to respond to or relapsed after chemotherapy. Only half of patients undergoing transplant are cured long-term, and disease relapse is the major cause of treatment failure. Professor Amrolia is pioneering the development of a new immunotherapy approach to treat relapsed ALL. If successful, this should not only improve survival but also reduce toxicity and improve quality of life for children with this disease.

Amount of grant: £300,000 | ...
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Developing immunotherapy for childhood sarcomas

Isabelle Gore 14 September 2015
Professor John Anderson, UCL Institute of Child Health, London

Immunotherapy is emerging as an important new line of defence against childhood cancers that do not respond to chemotherapy. Success has already been achieved in the treatment of children with leukaemia and neuroblastoma using immunotherapy techniques. Professor Anderson and colleagues now aim to extend these techniques to the treatment of childhood sarcomas. 

Amount of grant: £181,213 | Date of award: May 2015 Overview One of the greatest challenges facing paediatric oncologists is the management of children with tumours that are resistant to chemotherapy, especially when the...
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Childhood cancer immunotherapy using blood cells from umbilical cord blood

Isabelle Gore 26 June 2014
Professor Waseem Qasim, UCL Institute of Child Health

Immunotherapy is an important new approach in the treatment of cancer. Some immunotherapy approaches rely on the collection of patients’ own immune cells, which are genetically engineered before being returned to the patient to fight the cancer. Unfortunately, following chemotherapy, many children have very low numbers of the necessary immune cells, making this approach unfeasible. Professor Qasim is pioneering an approach using immune cells taken from donated umbilical cord blood as an alternative to using patients’ own cells.

Amount of grant: £255,156 | Date of award: June 2014 Overv...
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Antibody development for safer stem cell transplant in acute myeloid leukaemia

Isabelle Gore 26 June 2014
Professor Persis Amrolia, UCL Institute of Child Health

Stem cell transplant is often used to treat patients with acute myeloid leukaemia but the intensive treatment used pre-transplant to destroy the patient’s bone marrow has serious side effects. Professor Amrolia is pioneering a new way of destroying the bone marrow, using specially designed antibodies to create space for the donor stem cells. If successful, this approach should make it possible to carry out transplants in a much safer way.

Amount of grant: £267,162 | Date of award: June 2014 Overview Stem cell transplant (SCT) is an important but high-risk procedure often used in the ...
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Engineering immune cells for the optimal eradication of neuroblastoma

Isabelle Gore 01 March 2013
Dr David Gilham, Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, Manchester

Neuroblastoma is one of the most common solid tumours to occur in children. It can be exceptionally difficult to treat and, despite intensive treatment, around one third of patients cannot currently be cured. In this project, Dr Gilham is harnessing the power of the immune system by engineering specific immune cells to destroy tumour cells. He will lay the essential groundwork in the laboratory to enable progression to clinical trial in children.

Amount of grant: £183,706  |  Date of award: March 2013 Overview Neuroblastoma is one of the most common solid tumours to occu...
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Immunotherapy for high-risk neuroblastoma

Larry McCarthy 01 June 2012
Professor John Anderson, UCL Institute of Child Health, London

Neuroblastoma is one of the most common childhood tumours. It has a high-risk form that is one of the most difficult childhood cancers to cure, despite intensive therapy. This project aims to harness a new immunotherapy approach to develop a treatment strategy for high-risk neuroblastoma that is more effective and less toxic than current approaches.

Amount of grant: £151,195*  |  Date of award: June 2012

The team
Professor John Anderson, Dr Martin Pule & Dr Karin Straatfhof, UCL Institute of Child Health; Professor Louis Chesler, Institute of Cancer Research; Professor Kerry Ch...
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Immunotherapy after stem cell transplant in children with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

John Smithies 01 December 2008
Prof Persis Amrolia & Dr Nick Goulden, UCL Institute of Child Health

Chemotherapy is used as the first defence against childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia but children who do not respond must undergo stem cell transplant (SCT), a high risk procedure that does not always succeed. This project is pioneering a new technique to treat children who relapse after SCT, using reprogrammed immune cells from the stem cell donor to help fight the leukaemia.

Amount of grant: £348,658  |  Date of award: December 2008

Professor Persis Amrolia and Dr Nicholas Goulden, UCL Institute of Child Health. Background When a child is first diagnosed with leu...
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