I was hooked on studying immunotherapy and the new drugs that activate the cells to bolster the immune system to fight cancer, so people are cured or survive longer. Our challenge is to find out why there’s cellular resistance to these therapies and how we can predict the response to these treatments to make it more effective for patients.
An $80,000 grant from Cancer Research Trust NZ in 2017 gave me the means to undertake a study focused on PDL1, an important protein in melanoma cells which can potentially be receptive to or can block immunotherapy. That initial grant recognised early on how topical and fundamental our work was and it provided the springboard to greater knowledge, contributing to a global effort to unlock the secrets behind resistance to immunotherapy.
Along with colleagues from Otago University and the University of Sydney, we believe we may have uncovered a key piece of the puzzle with our study of new immune therapy drugs to turn T cells into cancer killers to treat melanoma and stop its spread. It’s exciting.