Immunotherapy offers the potential to eliminate localized cancers, tumour stem cells, and also metastatic disease. One promising modality of immunotherapy for cancer employs chimeric antigen receptors (CARs) that redirect potent immune cells towards the elimination of tumour cells. These receptors are composed of a tumour-specific antibody binding domain, that functions to direct cells to the cancer of interest, fused to a signalling domain that will activate the immune cell's killing and proliferative mechanisms. One set of projects here involves the generation of novel CARs for tumour-associated antigens identified from acute myelogenous leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma, and colorectal cancer. These CARs will be stably expressed in various subtypes of immune-effector T cells and/or NK cells and tested in animal models of these cancers.
We are also currently developing a clinical gene therapy trial for an IL-12-based cancer immunotherapy protocol in collaboration with Dr. Christopher Paige's lab at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. Here, leukemic cells are genetically modified using lentiviral vectors to express IL-12, a potent immuno-stimulatory cytokine. We are also extending development of this treatment schema to solid tumours.