A New Cancer Therapy Field

A UW team is helping to weaponize the body’s own immune system.

Scientists at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health are breaking new ground to make cancer cells more susceptible to attack by the body’s own immune system.

Jamey Weichert

Jamey Weichert: “I often describe it as scuffing up the tumor with this low amount of radiation to make it easier for the immune system to recognize it.” John Wingren

Working in mice, a team led by Jamey Weichert, professor of radiology, and Zachary Morris, assistant professor of human oncology, is combining two techniques: targeted radionuclide therapy, which delivers a low dose of cell-weakening radiation specifically to cancer cells, followed by immunotherapy, which helps the immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells. The animal research is laying the foundation for future human and veterinary clinical trials.

“This has a huge advantage because we can target tumors systemically, regardless of number and anatomic location,” explains Weichert. “I often describe it as scuffing up the tumor with this low amount of radiation to make it easier for the immune system to recognize it.”

The team has been awarded $12.5 million in funding from the National Cancer Institute to better understand and further develop this approach to treating potentially any cancer.

“There are really only one or two other institutions in the country that could do this kind of research — that have access to the necessary expertise and resources,” says Weichert. “We believe we are launching a new cancer therapy field here.”

Tags: Faculty, Health and medicine, Research, Science

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