Dr Clare Slaney awarded the Mavis Robertson Fellowship 2018

Posted by admin on 25 September 2018

The Mavis Robertson Fellowship was established in 2011 and is awarded each year to a female Principal Investigator considered by NBCF to exhibit the greatest promise as a leader in breast cancer research in Australia.

Mavis Robertson was a founder of the Women in Super Mother’s Day Classic and a Trustee of NBCF for over 10 years. Since 1998 the Women in Super Mother’s Day Classic has raised over $33 million for breast cancer research and remains the most significant single donor to the NBCF.

In 2018 the Fellowship was awarded to Dr Clare Slaney from the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Victoria.

Dr Slaney’s research project is titled: “Using Lessons from toxic shock syndrome to enhance breast cancer immunotherapy.” The fellowship will provide $10,000 to help Dr Slaney further her academic and professional goals.

Project Start Year:  2018
Project End Year: 2019

Project title ‘Using lessons from toxic shock syndrome to enhance breast cancer immunotherapy’

An exciting cancer treatment, called immunotherapy, involved using the body’s own immune system to fight tumours. The immune system consists of white blood cells which protect the body against disease, and these include subtypes called T cells and antigen presenting cells (APCs). T cells can detect abnormal or unhealthy cells and initiate an immune response, whilst APCs present antigens to T cells to boost and amplify the immune response. The most powerful immune response requires these two types of cells to engage with each other and work together.

A very promising immunotherapy involves an injection of a patient’s own T cells that have been modified to have an anti-cancer molecule (called a CAR) on their surface. Some leukaemias can be cured using CAR T cells, which naturally engage APCs, leading to massive multiplication of CAR T cells, which go on to destroy the leukaemia. However, CAR T sells of the type used for breast cancer do not naturally engage APCs and multiply, consequently having little effect against breast cancer tumours.

To combat this, Dr Slaney and her research team will produce a brand new type of molecule, called Bispecific Engager of APCs and T cells (BEAT). This will be produced using gene engineering and biochemical methods and tested with various cells to help determine the best combinations for blocking tumours. The best BEAT will then be used in combination with an injection of CAR T cells against breast cancer, to examine it’s anti-tumour effects and safety.

If successful, this new combination of CAR T cells and BEAT could significantly enhance the effectiveness of immunotherapy for breast cancer treatment.