Recruiting the immune system to fight cancer

On April 16, 2019, the Centre for Pharmaceutical Oncology (CPO) at the Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy hosted its third annual symposium. This year’s theme was Immunotherapy: Recruiting the Immune System to Fight Cancer and brought together a renowned international panel of immunotherapy experts who spoke on its biological basis, clinical trails, efficacy, economics and more.

“The discovery of immune checkpoints that prevent the immune system from destroying cancer cells is a major advance, and led to the awarding of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology to Drs. James Allison and Tasuku Honjo,” says Professor Raymond Reilly, Director of the CPO. “Immunotherapy aims to block these immune checkpoints and restore immune surveillance. This breaks new ground in cancer treatment and could have application to many different cancers.”

The CPO was created as a “meeting place” where experts in cancer biology interact with pharmaceutical scientists and clinical trial experts to work together to tackle the most difficult challenges in cancer research that will have the largest impact on the care of patients.

The annual CPO symposium also provides an opportunity for trainees and students who are conducting cancer research at the Faculty and will become the next generation of cancer researchers to present their research.

For the first time this year, two cancer survivors shared their treatment journey and patient insights with the symposium attendees. “If I make any impact on you today,” said one patient “it would be to drive home that a person-centred care approach to health is relevant whether you are on the front lines, an administrator or a researcher. For those who are not directly connected to the patient, it’s always important to remember that it’s about them. Your investigations for new and better treatments will help both patients and their families.”

Thank you to Novartis and Gilead, our key sponsors for this year’s symposium.