08:31pm Tuesday 12 December 2017

The cure for cancer? You’re it

In the last 40 years cancer survival in the UK has doubled and during that same time period researchers at the University of Southampton have looked more closely at, perhaps, the best weapon we have against cancer – our own immune system.

“More than 90 per cent of patients treated with immunotherapy who have survived more than two years remain cancer free.”

Professor Martin Glennie, Head of Cancer Sciences

Immunotherapy is a revolutionary treatment that supercharges the body’s natural defences to find and destroy cancer with the potential to treat 100 different types of the disease. Immunotherapy treatments developed at Southampton not only destroy visible cancer cells but also seek out and eradicate hidden cancers in other parts of the body. Potentially, they give our bodies a lifetime of immunity with many of our patients who were previously given months to live now living cancer free.

“Our new treatments in the form of vaccines and antibodies direct special immune cells against cancers. These ‘killer’ cells can control and shrink cancer and give long-lasting protection,” says Peter Johnson, Professor of Medical Oncology.

Our clinical trials of drugs for advanced and terminal cancers, such as lung, skin (melanoma) and pancreatic cancers, and neuroblastoma, are showing remarkable results. Groundbreaking discoveries, such as vaccines, are moving out of the lab and reaching patients.

Building on over four decades of immunology research at Southampton, we have played a major part in developing:

• Antibody treatments that remove leukaemia cells from blood
• A DNA cancer vaccine
• A new class of anti-lymphoma antibody for adult leukaemia
• Ipilimumab, one of the first approved immunology drugs, extending the lives of patients with melanoma

Our results show that as many as half our patients with difficult-to-treat cancers are showing significant improvements. And an amazing 20 per cent are cancer free.

“More than 90 per cent of patients treated with immunotherapy who have survived more than two years remain cancer free,” says Professor Martin Glennie, Head of Cancer Sciences.

In the next few years, our ambition is to open a world-leading Centre for Cancer Immunology, the first of its kind in the UK, with state-of-the-art facilities to attract leading scientists from all over the world. Through the Centre, we aim to double the number of people working on cancer immunology and ultimately double the number of patients taking part in clinical trials. Perhaps more importantly, we aim to maximise our research power, enabling us to accelerate the development of immunotherapy treatments and deliver cures for cancers more effectively and more quickly.

To find out more about our advances in Cancer Immunology, visit http://www.southampton.ac.uk/youreit


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