Cellular immunotherapy for cancer
Immunotherapy is a type of treatment in which the patient’s own immune system is activated to seek out and destroy cancer cells in the body. There are various types of immunotherapy. The team led by Prof. Zwi Berneman is using its knowledge of the cells in the immune system and the behaviour of cancer cells to develop cellular immunotherapies and make them available to patients.
They have developed their own therapeutic vaccine for cancer. This is based on dendritic cells, which are the commanders of the immune system (DC vaccine). When patients are given this vaccine, combined with standard chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, recurrence of the cancer is delayed or can even be prevented completely by reactivating the immune system. So far this DC vaccine has been administered in clinical trials to patients with acute leukaemia, mesothelioma, aggressive brain tumours and metastatic breast cancer.
By making further improvements to the DC vaccine and developing new types of immunotherapy such as CAR-T cell treatments, we are aiming to help a larger group of patients with different forms of cancer. These immunotherapy treatments have also been found to have a multiplier effect when combined with standard treatments or other immunotherapies. CAR-T cells are immune cells (T-lymphocytes) armed with a chimeric antigen receptor (CAR), a molecule that identifies cancer cells and encourages T cells to attack them.
Fifteen years ago UZA invested in infrastructure to facilitate research, development and production of cell therapies and immunotherapies. Recently UZA has further extended the capacity of this infrastructure. UZA was the first hospital in Belgium to receive a pharmacological licence to safely develop and produce its own immunotherapies.
Building on their expertise and extensive international collaboration, the team led by Prof. Zwi Berneman is engaged in some pioneering work. With your support, they are able to use their expertise to help cancer patients. Your support is opening up new horizons for our cancer patients.
There are three specific projects we would like to highlight in this campaign. Follow the links below to find out more about the DC vaccine, CAR-T cell therapy and the implications of research into brain tumours in children.