The Pancreatic Cancer UK Grand Challenge

Unlocking the potential of immunotherapy for pancreatic cancer

An extremely promising area of research

Chimeric Antigen Receptor modified T (CAR-T) cell immunotherapy is an ambitious new approach to treating cancer, which seeks to engineer the bodies’ own immune system to fight and destroy cancerous cells. It is an exciting area in the world of cancer treatments and has achieved incredible success in the therapy of certain, previously untreatable, cancers including leukaemia. The potential to do the same for pancreatic cancer is huge.

In order to tackle this challenge we funded the Pancreatic Cancer UK Grand Challenge award enabling Professor Nick Lemoine, a leading pancreatic cancer expert, and a team of researchers, at Barts Cancer Institute & King’s College London, to realise the potential of this promising area of research.

What will the team be doing?

The team aim to overcome some of the current challenges in immunotherapy in pancreatic cancer by:

  • Developing specially engineered CAR T cells that target molecules that are at high levels on pancreatic cancer cells and lower or absent on normal cells
  • Developing viruses that after injection into those with pancreatic cancer produce chemicals near the pancreatic cancer that attract the CAR-T cells
  • Determining which drugs could be used to change the dense tissue surrounding the pancreatic cancer tumour (the stroma) so as to make it more leaky and accessible to immune cells, including CAR-T cells

Once they have completed these aims, the team will test the CAR T cells, cancer-killing viruses and drugs designed to make the stroma leakier in combination with each other to generate new therapies for maximal effect against pancreatic cancer.

Progress so far

This latest project is already showing exciting progress. There is still a long way to go, but the results so far are promising.

Our Head of Research, Chris Macdonald caught up with member of the Grand Challenge team, Professor John Marshall, Barts Cancer Institute, to get an update on the Pancreatic Cancer UK Grand Challenge award.

Watch the videos below to find out more:

Immunotherapy and the Grand Challenge explained
Exciting progress coming together for 2021
The impact of Coronavirus on the Grand Challenge