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New lab to facilitate immunotherapy clinical trials


Researcher at work in the new Conconi Family Immunotherapy Lab. Image courtesy of the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

Researcher at work in the new Conconi Family Immunotherapy Lab. Image courtesy of the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

Victoria, B.C. – A lab for T-cell therapy development recently opened at the BC Cancer Agency and brings an entirely new approach to cancer treatment one step closer. Built with the support of private philanthropic funds, the Conconi Family Immunotherapy Lab forms the hub of custom immunotherapy treatment production for cancer patients across British Columbia.

With $5.5 million raised through the BC Cancer Foundation to launch immunotherapy clinical trials, the lab is a critical component, providing a facility to create promising new treatments. Scientists will now begin testing the facility and T cell therapy production to ready for clinical trials.

The new lab bears the Conconi name, honouring a $2 million gift the family made to the BC Cancer Foundation, which inspired more than 5,900 donors across the province to make donations as well.

“Immunotherapy is beginning to have striking, durable effects against many different cancers and we are immensely grateful to the Conconi family and BC Cancer Foundation for giving us the tools to bring these new treatments to the clinic,” said Dr. Brad Nelson, who leads the Immunotherapy Research Program at the BC Cancer Agency.

“The hope for all of us is to be able to offer highly effective treatments that help people live better and longer,” said Anna Tinker, clinical trial lead and medical oncologist.

The lab’s initial focus will be on Adoptive T Cell Therapy. This is a specific form of immunotherapy that amplifies the power of T cells—immune cells responsible for destroying viruses and tumors—extracted from an individual cancer patient. In a highly selective process, scientists identify the T cells already attempting to destroy the cancer and multiply them by the thousands in the lab. The end product is a supercharged batch of a patient’s own T cells that can be delivered through an IV infusion.

Phase I clinical trials for ovarian and cervical cancer are slated to begin in early 2017.