Cancer Gene Therapy

Group leaders: Dr Geoff McCowage and Dr Belinda Kramer

Our links with children being treated for cancer in our hospitals ensure our research is based on real life questions that come directly from the cancer ward. Doctors in the hospital’s clinical oncology service are closely following the successful use of immune-based therapies to treat cancer, in particular solid tumours that recur or are hard to treat with standard therapies. The Cancer Gene Therapy team is using gene therapy to develop an immune- based therapy to target these types of tumours.

The project takes a patient’s T cells and re-engineers them to target and kill tumour cells in much the same way that these cells can target and kill pathogens in the body. The project brings together staff of the Children’s Cancer Research Unit’s Cancer Gene Therapy Group, the Oncology Unit and the Gene Therapy Research Unit, under the umbrella of Sydney Cell and Gene Therapy on the Westmead Campus.

Following on from this group’s experience in conducting capacity to conduct a Phase I study using gene therapy to develop treatments for brain tumours, this project also aims to test the strategy in a clinical trial.

Specialised infrastructure in the form of state-of-art cleanrooms, and well-established quality systems underpinning their operations, allow for the manipulation of patient cells using gene transfer protocols for this project.

Included in the research of re-engineering T cells to attack tumour, the group are also working on the development of vectors for gene transfer into T cells, including the scale up of vector manufacture to clinical batch size, as well as function, safety and stability testing of proposed vectors for future clinical trial use.