Dr. David Brooks got his start studying immune responses to persistent viruses – an interest that came from seeing his parents’ work with AIDS patients. Through his understanding of the immune system’s response to chronic infections, the transition to cancer research was natural. It became clear to him that many suppresive strategies of chronic viruses are also present in cancer. He leads a team at The Princess Margaret that seeks to manipulate the immune system to take on cancer.
Dr. Marcus Butler is motivated to help patients, and in his own words, cautiously optimistic about immunotherapy. For Dr. Butler, the challenge he currently faces is determining how immunotherapy can be tailored to treat each type of cancer effectively. He’s excited about the possibilities of his work in adoptive T-cell therapy.
In his lab, Dr. Butler and his team work to engineer an immune response by taking cells from a patient’s own immune system and modifying them to fight cancer more effectively. Essentially, they supercharge the immune system.
Dr. Butler was drawn to The Princess Margaret for its international reputation and commitment to immunotherapy as a powerful tool to treat cancer. He was recruited from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The collaborative culture at the Cancer Centre inspires Dr. Butler to push forward with innovative research. “This is the kind of environment that anyone would want to be in to help move the field forward.”
Dr. Derek Clouthier is one of the newest members of the Tumor Immunotherapy Program.
He came to The Princess Margaret late last year, after finishing his PhD in immunology. He is a Scientific Associate and the Program Manager of the Terry Fox Research Institute-sponsored immunoTherapy NeTwork (iTNT). Some of his work with TIP involves working with clinical trials and managing the workflow, distribution, and analysis of patient samples.
Since he was young, Dr. Daniel De Carvalho always had a keen interest in science. That continued into his university years in Brazil and has carried into his work in cancer research at The Princess Margaret.
Today, Dr. De Carvalho does research on cancer treatments involving epigenetics and immunotherapy. He is currently working on treatments that make cancer cells appear as virus-infected cells, so the immune system can take action. A clinical trial is taking place right now at The Princess Margaret which combines that approach with immunotherapy drugs, to boost the immune system to attack cancer.
Dr. De Carvalho is also interested in researching blood-based methods of cancer detection, in hopes of finding the disease earlier.
For Dr. Naoto Hirano, the true value of research occurs when it can be translated into making a difference in patients’ lives.
To him, that is the beauty of Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. He and his team aim to turn discoveries into practical solutions for patients and make adoptive T-cell therapy available for every cancer patient who could benefit. His research aims to invent new and personalized anti-tumor immunotherapeutic models that can cure cancer. Dr. Hirano attended medical and graduate school at the University of Tokyo. He was an Assistant Professor at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Harvard Medical School, before joining The Princess Margaret five years ago.
Dr. Tracy McGaha likes a challenge. What motivates him is the opportunity to help people through his research. Years ago, he lost his father to prostate cancer. While his father battled cancer, Dr. McGaha realized just how much was left to discover about cancer’s ability to co-opt immune processes to protect itself. This is now his area of study.
He studies how the body protects itself from immune attack and how immune protective mechanisms affect attempts to fight tumors.
Dr. Linh Nguyen has been part of The Princess Margaret’s immunotherapy efforts since they started a decade ago. The field has changed rapidly and Dr. Nguyen says a number of breakthroughs have helped it take flight. She’s excited to see a growing number of approved immunotherapies that can be used to treat patients – and how they may be combined in future.
Dr. Nguyen went to graduate school at the University of Toronto, before pursuing post-doctorate studies at Harvard Medical School. She came back to Toronto to join The Princess Margaret.
Today, Dr. Nguyen leads the Tumor Immunotherapy Program’s Cell Production Team. Much of her current work involves adoptive T-cell therapy.
Dr. Pamela Ohashi is driven by the desire to cure cancer. Her positive outlook and dedication to innovation pushes her research forward. As a graduate student, Dr. Ohashi worked with Dr. Tak Mak when he cloned the T-cell receptor in 1984. Being part of that key discovery allowed Dr. Ohashi to continue to build her career doing research in this new, exciting field.
Dr. Ohashi’s research focuses on understanding ways to regulate and improve the immune response to cancer. New strategies and mechanisms are being uncovered that will help control immune responses and may be applied to enhance the immune attack on cancer. In addition, her team has developed techniques to grow tumor-infiltrating T-cells. This is important in two ways: it gives us insights into what is going on inside a tumor and importantly can also be used as a therapy to treat patients.
Dr. Ohashi knows teamwork is key to finding a cure. Together, she and her colleagues at The Princess Margaret are implementing new clinical trials and building a team of experts with a goal to provide personalized cancer medicine.
Throughout his 42-year career, Dr. Christopher Paige has seen the field of cancer immunotherapy rise and fall, but he believes it’s finally having its moment. Studies of experimental models have given scientists a better understanding of the immune system and the therapies that can be derived from it. His hope is for immunotherapy to become a standard form of cancer treatment.
In his lab, Dr. Paige and his collaborators have learned how to use viruses to alter cancer cells to make them more visible to the immune system. They are using these methods to develop cancer vaccines. These vaccines have reached the clinical trial stage. Dr. Paige says it has taken more than a decade of work to get to this point.
Dr. Lillian Siu is always prepared to take on a challenge. A medical oncologist for the past 20 years, she is determined to advance treatment to provide patients with the best possible care.
For Dr. Siu, that comes in the form of personalized cancer medicine. This uses molecular profiling and genomics to target cancer cells specific to each patient. Immunotherapy is no different. Dr. Siu is focused on identifying patient-specific markers to determine whose immune system will respond to a particular drug.
Dr. Siu is involved in three major programs focusing on drug development, cancer genomics and tumor immunotherapy. As both a scientist and clinician, Dr. Siu is actively involved in immunotherapy clinical trials and leads genomics initiatives and immunotherapy trials at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.
Lee-Anne Stayner is on the front lines of immunotherapy clinical trials at The Princess Margaret. Through her interaction with patients, she is dedicated to providing the highest level of care. Stayner sees the difference clinical trials can make in the quality of life for patients. As a Nurse Co-Ordinator, Stayner is a liaison between patients and scientists. She is involved in the delivery and assessment of patient care to facilitate clinical trials.
Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is home to Canada’s first and most comprehensive immunotherapy program. Our cutting-edge research expertise spans basic immunology discoveries to clinical trials. We focus on improving our knowledge of the immune system to better detect, diagnose and target cancers.
“There’s a lot of expertise that needs to come together to really move us forward in this field. The special thing about Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is that we have an excellent team of experts who are really in this to be game-changers,” says Dr. Pamela Ohashi.
“This is the perfect place to do things that are considered impossible. We have the brainpower, we have the resources, we have the patients and we have support from the Foundation,” says Dr. Lillian Siu.